BAGUIO CITY (Oct.26) — Lead, a heavy metal believed a health hazard, is found in Baguio drivers’ blood samples, a study presented at an academic forum at the University of the Philippines here, claims.
The study Incidence of Lead in the Blood of Jeepney Drivers in Baguio City by University of Baguio’s Dr. Benilda Narcelles elicited concern from forum participants who tackled issues surrounding the proposal for the pedestrianization of Session Road, the city’s main business street as the focus of discussions.
Narcelles noted lead in blood samples taken from all 43 volunteer drivers plying the Aurora Hill-Plaza route. Three of the drivers subjected to the study showed varying toxicity in their blood samples. Certain ailments associated with lead contamination were also noted by Narcelles in her paper.
Narcelles said drivers with the greatest lead content in their blood samples tend to suffer from kidney diseases, rheumatism, back pain and dizziness. Those with moderate lead had respiratory ailments while those with cardio-vascular disease had tested least. Narcelles noted that those with cardio-vascular ailments are more likely to have ceased driving thus, the least exposed to pollution.
What worries Narcelles is her discovery that even unleaded gasoline contains some 0.003 to 0.006% of lead.
In a separate interview with Perfecto Itliong, president of the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers of Baguio and La Union, he revealed that drivers usually sip gasoline from the tank in an attempt to siphon the remaining fluid for washing their tools or hands. He said he wanted all drivers tested for lead to determine the extent of their exposure.
Narcelles, said, she is willing to undertake the study if the drivers’ federation would finance her study, which she said would cost a fortune. The test for 43 drivers was an academic grant she accessed for the paper.
Corroborating Narcelles’es findings, Dr. Ofelia dela Cruz of the UP-Baguio Natural Science Department, said that lead poses danger not only to Baguio drivers but also to the country’s populace because of dirty fuel used by most vehicles on the streets.
Dela Cruz expressed concern over a study involving hazards to children. According to Narcelles, lead affects the child’s nervous system causing learning disabilities, speech, language and behavioral problems, poor muscle coordination, and worst, brain damage.
In adults, nerves, memory and concentration problems occur due to lead contamination. High blood pressure, digestive disturbances, muscle and joint pains, low sperm production and cataract also manifest due to lead in the human system, according to the study.
“Lead in the blood indicates danger,” Narcelles quoted a medical professional as saying. She blames the poor quality of fuel for the presence of lead but she did not discount the plumbing system of the city which may have also contributed.
Dr. Florence Reyes of the Department of Health said the results of the tests may be tolerable but should not be a reason for complacency. She disclosed the need for vigilance in DOH inspection and monitoring of the city’s water supply because of antiquated metal pipelines.
Presenters during the forum tackled issues such as air pollution, the proliferation of street vendors, lower revenues for business enterprises, and the emergence of criminality, on one hand; and the sense of history and of place and of belonging, the walk ability and publicness, traffic situation, parking spaces and security on the other.
One paper, To Walk or not to Walk, presented by UP-Baguio’s Katti Sta. Ana, cited an earlier study by Maryann Alabanza decrying a high level of pollution in Session Road. Sta. Ana is with the School of Urban and Regional Planning in UP-Diliman. She advocated walking due to spatial requirements and pollution issues associated with motorized vehicles.
Sponsored by the Ecademe, or the Energy and Clean Air Network of the Academe, a group of academic institutions in Baguio and Benguet, the forum gathered development planners, health professionals, and technical experts, among them Archt. Joseph Alabanza, as reactors to four academic papers presented by Archt. Rafael Chan, Archt. Donna Tabangin, aside from Sta. Ana; and Narcelles. # Lyn V. Ramo for NORDIS