• Town hall meeting focuses on lead hazard

  • Lead hazard in military housing addressed at Town hall.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    The Fort Leavenworth Army Garrison conducted a town hall meeting to educate the community about the hazards of lead-based paint Sept. 17 at Post Theater.
    The town hall was one in a series of meetings Army wide following an Aug. 16 Reuters article noting the incidence of elevated levels of lead in the blood of children living in some Army housing. It also notes serious health effects on children that may have been related to lead exposure from living in Army housing at Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Knox, Ky.; Fort Riley, Kan.; and West Point, N.Y.
    “We want to talk about and make sure that we have given you all the information and what we are trying to do to protect you and your families,” said Garrison Commander Col. Marne Sutten.
    The town hall brought together several subject matter experts to answer residents’ questions.
    Potential sources
    The potential for hazards from lead-based paint is in homes and buildings built before 1978, said Dale Cleland, Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division chief. Federal law banned the residential use of lead-based paint after 1978.
    Even in homes with lead-based paint, there are ways to reduce the chance of exposure, Cleland said.
    Several of the older homes on Fort Leavenworth have multiple layers of latex paint covering the lead-based paint, limiting the exposure. Also, as long as the paint remains intact and is not chipping, the exposure is reduced, he said.
    The most common problem areas will be around hinges and door frames where paint may be chipping.
    The best way to reduce possible exposure to lead is to use a damp rag to clean or dust these areas because the rag will pick up the dust rather than release it back into the air, Cleland said.
    Paint is not the only source of exposure to lead children can have. Other sources include drinking water from lead pipes, children’s toys, cigarette smoke, and imported pottery and tableware.
    Health effects of lead
    “We’re most concerned about lead exposure to children because children are still developing their nervous system, their mental abilities,” said Col. Scott Mower, commander of Munson Army Health Center. “So, they’re more susceptible and vulnerable to lead exposures.”
    Younger children are also more likely to ingest lead because they put things in their mouths, Mower said.
    Children with blood lead concentrations below 5 µd/dL can suffer decreases in mental ability and children with higher levels of blood concentrations, 5-10 µd/dL, may develop anemia and behavioral and learning problems, Mower said. Blood tests are the best way to help determine the level of exposure in high risk populations.
    Page 2 of 4 - In the past three years, Mower said MAHC has conducted 934 tests on children ages 0-15 and only two came back with elevated blood lead levels. The first in 2017 was a child in off-post housing. The child’s siblings were also tested and they showed no signs of elevated blood lead levels. Within a month, the child’s levels were back to normal once the source of lead was removed.
    The second case in 2018 was a child in on-post housing. The child’s siblings, including the child’s twin, were tested as well and none had elevated levels. After two to three more tests, the levels decreased.
    MAHC tests for blood lead levels with a venous blood draw and the tests are then shipped to Joint Base San Antonio Medical Center with results coming back within a week, Mower said.
    If parents are concerned that their child has been exposed to lead, they should call MAHC at 684-6250 and schedule an appointment. The physician will ask screening questions and order a test. The Army follows lead screening guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
    Housing situation
    The Residential Communities Initiative project led to the privatization of Fort Leavenworth housing in March 2006. Michaels Military Housing, parent company of Fort Leavenworth Frontier Heritage Communities, which manages housing on post, demolished more than 700 older homes that could not be renovated, renovated more than 550 homes and constructed more than 700 new homes.
    Currently there are 634 quarters remaining with lead-based paint including quarters in historic Main Post, Santa Fe, Old Oregon and the remaining Upper Kansa villages. However, each of them has been repainted several times over the years, said Ronald Hansen, president of Michaels Management Services/Michaels Military Housing, Fort Leavenworth’s privatized housing partner.
    “The lead-based paint itself is essentially under layers and layers of latex paint,” Hansen said. “Some have 13 layers of paint.”
    FLFHC has certified staff who inspect for lead paint on a regular basis, as well as upon work order request. The DPW Environmental Division also has devices that can check for lead paint.
    Hansen said if an inspector misses a spot following an initial inspection, the resident should call FLFHC at 683-6300.
    For residents who are moving into homes built before 1978, they are provided with a brochure and a federal disclosure notice so they know that there is lead paint in the home. They are also provided cleaning instructions, Hansen said.
    Other facilities
    American Water is the water service provider for Fort Leavenworth. In 2017, American Water performed a Kansas Department of Health and Environment Lead and Copper Rule testing, which is required every three years, Cleland said.
    Fort Leavenworth’s sampling is taken at 30 locations, including 17 pre-1978 quarters. Following the 2017 sampling, in the 17 older quarters, 11 were 0 parts per billion and 6 were between 1.2 and 5.7 ppb, which is below the action level of 15 ppb, he said.
    Page 3 of 4 - Of the four post schools, Bradley Elementary School was built in 1964 and Patton Junior High School was built in 1958. However, both have been renovated and are lead-safe, Cleland said.
    Patch Community Center was built in 1905 and is currently home to several Child and Youth Services programs; however, the paint is currently in good condition and the trim and the hinges where chipping is most common are currently not painted, he said.
    All of the child development centers on post were built after 1978.
    Finally, MAHC was originally constructed in 1961, Cleland said; however, it has also had multiple renovations and additions since and is also lead safe.
    Reducing the lead risk
    Cleland said there are several ways to reduce the risk of lead exposure in older homes on post.
    • Never dry scrape or sand painted surfaces.
    • Inspect and maintain all painted surfaces to prevent paint deterioration.
    • Address water damage quickly and completely to prevent paint from peeling or plaster from failing.
    • Wipe window ledges and floors around doors and windows weekly with a damp cloth in order to pick up dust instead of releasing it back into the air.
    • Use only cold water to prepare food and drinks.
    • Flush water outlets used for drinking or food preparation.
    • Clean debris out of outlet screens or faucet aerators on a regular basis.
    • Use only containers, dishes or pans that are lead-free to cook or store foods and liquids.
    • Be aware of lead hazards from certain hobbies such as stained glass and keep children away from the work areas.
    The Army’s solution
    “The Army is developing a program to validate that current procedures are effectively managing lead,” said Bill Waugh, director of DPW. “The program will start with a data call in all the different types of housing the Army is involved with to address concerns … and we want to make sure the program is effective here as well.”
    For more information on lead hazards, visit the KDHE Kansas Healthy Homes website at http://www.kshealthyhomes.org/ index.html.
    Other agencies that can provide information include the KDHE Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Prevention Program, the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and health care providers.
    Anyone concerned about lead in their on-post home can contact Deb Healy, FLFHC community director, at (913) 682-6300 or Shawn Rose, FLFHC facilities director, at (913) 651-3838.
    Residents can also contact Rick Fields, from the Garrison RCI Office, at 684-5684.
    Page 4 of 4 - “On the Army family side, that’s what the Garrison is for; we’re here for you. Our interest is your interest,” said Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Jon Williams. “It is a welcome interaction. … We want to make sure you’re safe.”
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