|Students battle mercury monster
By Verdel Bishop Saturday, May 26 2007
Teachers and students at Curepe Presbyterian School have embarked on an environmental project in a bold and innovative venture entitled “The Disposal of Flourescent Bulbs”, and have imported disposal equipment costing of TT$28,000.
The project identifies one of our environmental concerns and has presented a solution to the community by way of a “Bulb-Eater” sponsored by Voltron Electrical Ltd.
Mercury poisoning is creeping up on us fast and steady, and most people are unaware of the dangers that this poison poses to our health and the harmful effects it has on our environment.
Improper recycling or disposal flourescent bulbs can cause toxic mercury to be released into the environment, resulting in damage to the human nervous system and a range of physical symptoms, including impairment of hearing, speech and vision, and even kidney damage.
Children at Curepe Presbyterian School have become the nation’s “superheros” in their quest to protect our environment, with a project that promises to turn environmental problems into opportunities for restoring our country’s natural beauty, protecting public health, and improving the quality of life in communities.
Project coodinator and teacher at Curepe Presbyterian, Basdeo Sooknanan, said they are exploring every avenue at a national level to inform the public of the harmful effects of mercury poisoning and the threat posed to our health due to the unregulated disposal of household and commercial flourescent bulbs.
A healthy mix of creative educational activities can go a long way to boost the overall abilities of children, and the school has been involved in similar types projects since 2001.
“This year’s project is already accomplishing its objectives by making an impact on the community,” Sooknanan said.
“We are reaching out to educate citizens and making them aware of choices. We are proud that out project will be sustainable for many years and that our small effort will yield positive changes in the way we approach the environment,” he said. A Bulb-Eater is a machine that processes, or crushes, spent lamps into small fragments. It not only crushes straight fluorescent lamps of any length, but also u-shaped fluorescent lamps as well. Sooknanan said he knows of only one such bulb disposal service available, but only to specific industrial companies.
“Our project intends to make this information available to the general public,” he said.
Educative activities for children come with a host of benefits and, acccording to Sooknanan, Curepe Presbyterian School is ranked among the top ten in the East-West corridor.
“The aim is to provide for the holistic development of all students and to provide them with positive lifelong skills and attitudes,” he said.
How did this project come about? A core committee brainstormed for ideas, and the discussion got the attention of Indar Ramcharran, director of Voltron Electrical Ltd, who had a previous vision of making steps to reduce the level of mercury poisoning through the dumping of fluorescent bulbs in the environment.
“Mr Ramcharran saw our project as a means of accomplishing that vision. He offered his services, support and sponsorship of the Bulb-Eater equipment,” Sook-nanan said.
“We felt that this matched our objectives and we accepted and embraced the offer. It became our EMA environmental project and the principal, Samuel Bejai, has been instrumental in initiating programmes and activities to accomplish these aims,” he said.
In 2001, the school entered as participants in the Cyber Fair Online Web Design International competition where it received a silver award. The competition spans across the globe and involves elementary, secondary and technical schools, and Curepe Presbyterian is the only school in the Caribbean to have taken part.
“Most of our entries were based on environmental projects and we have acheived honourary mention in other years,” Sooknanan said.
In 2004, the school placed first in the EMA Environmental Primary School Hands On competition and placed third in 2005.
“We intend to turn over the Bulb-Eater to the sponsor, Voltron Electrical Ltd, who will make the service available for use to the public. Additional arrangements for collection and disposals will be handled by Voltron,” he said.