EDUCATION Minister Anthony Garcia has announced that a chemical disinfectant which the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) had raised concerns about will no longer be used.
He made the announcement while responding to an urgent question in the House on Friday.
Garcia said that as part of the procurement process, the Education Ministry consulted with its health, safety and environmental team, "who assured the safety of all chemical products by reviewing the material safety data, the safety data sheet and any other supporting documents provided by the suppliers."
He added the documents were verified to ensure that the information was accurate.
Garcia said HDQ Neutral is on the list of disinfectants that meets the (US) Environmental Protection Agency criteria.
"The Ministry of Education, out of an abundance of caution, has halted the use and the distribution, after consultation with the Ministry of Health and other providers. In the future Ministry of Education will ensure that all chemicals to be used and distributed will be accompanied by the appropriate material safety data sheet."
Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh asked if Garcia could assure all stakeholders who carry out the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination, Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate and the Secondary Entrance Assessment examinations that the chemicals and cleaning agents used will not affect the conduct of the examinations.
Garcia replied; "I can assure this honourable House that the Ministry of Education has been vigilant to ensure any cleaning material meets the required health standards."
In a June 23 advisory to principals (which Newsday reported on Thursday), TTUTA warned that HDQ Neutral is identified for industrial and institutional use only. TTUTA president Antonia De Freitas advised against its use, saying it had serious health implications for students and school workers if improperly used.
De Freitas said if the ministry intends to use the chemical in addition to a regular cleaning agent when staff and students return, then personal protective equipment must be provided for ancillary staff, along with instructions for use and proper storage.
She also recommended that copies of the safety data sheet be kept in the administrative office and other designated areas of easy access, in case of inadvertent exposure.