DepEd probes mercury leak in Manila Science HS

March 24, 2017

PASIG CITY, March 24, 2017 – The Department of Education (DepEd), through the Schools Division Office of Manila, ordered an investigation of the mercury leak incident at the Manila Science High School (MSHS) and the continuous monitoring of the condition of students, teachers, and personnel directly and indirectly exposed to the substance.
According to the report of DepEd NCR Regional Director Ponciano Andal Menguito to Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones, Schools Division Superintendent (SDS) Wilfredo Cabral today verified that teachers and students will undergo screening and tests to be conducted jointly by the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) and the Manila City Health Office (MCHO).
Based on the monitoring of SDO nurses, the two teachers and the two students who were exposed to the chemical have not manifested any sign of neither dizziness nor difficulty in breathing. Furthermore, the teacher reported to have been admitted to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) was not confined.
Globecare, an industrial waste disposal specialist, has completed the cleanup and is expected to submit a report to the SDO Manila. SDS Cabral is also awaiting reports from the Department of Health (DoH) and Manila Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (DRRMO).
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), DoH NCR, MCHO, EAMC also conducted their assessment.
Based on the initial account of MSHS principal Eva Nacion to SDS Cabral, 60 ml of mercury from a Charles’ Law apparatus spilled on the corridor of the laboratory room last March 18, prompting the Science teachers, on their own capacity, to immediately clean the spill. The following day, March 19, a thorough inspection was conducted to ensure that no traces of mercury were left and the teachers reported the incident to Nacion, who asked about the teachers’ condition and how the spill was disposed. On March 20, the area was isolated, and Nacion sought the assistance of the DepEd Manila Health Services and relayed information to the MCHO.
Classes remain suspended today.
The Department Order No. 48, series of 2006, or the Observance of Safety Measures in Science Laboratories, has set strict guidelines on the safe handling, storage, and disposal of chemicals in schools and the immediate reporting of all accidents whether or not these result in an injury. Proper authorities such as DENR, DoH, and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) must be informed at once for expert management of the emergency situation.
Furthermore, the DepEd Order instructed Science teachers to ensure that students are informed of the hazards and trained in the safe handling and use of equipment and chemicals.
School heads should also implement stringent security and safety measures in the use of science laboratories. A full-time laboratory technician or a Science teacher should be assigned to take charge of the laboratories.