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Report: Military Bases Ignored Lead Hazards

Monday, August 20, 2018

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A recent investigative report conducted by Reuters about lead levels in children who live on military bases has led to a cleanup effort at one of the most well-known sites: Fort Knox.

© iStock.com / XiFoto

A recent investigative report conducted by Reuters about lead levels in children who live on military bases has led to a cleanup effort at one of the most well-known sites: Fort Knox.

The investigation found that a number of children in on-post housing have harmful levels of lead in their blood, while also finding that reporting practices of such medical records have been inconsistent, with certain posts refusing to disclose records at all.

The Investigation

Reuters, working in collaboration with scientists from Columbia University, investigated homes on bases that included Fort Benning, Georgia; West Point, New York; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Knox, Kentucky; and Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas. Reuters provided home lead testing kits to 11 families on several bases, which were then sent to the university lab.

It found many instances in which the lead by weight of peeling paint—some in areas such as children’s bedrooms or play areas—well exceeded the federal threshold for abatement. A covered porch in Fort Knox, for example, was found to have peeling paint that contained 50 percent lead by weight, 100 times the threshold.

Reuters also obtained Army medical records and found that from 2011 to 2016, Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, which processes blood from most of the nation’s bases, registered more than 1,050 small children who tested above the elevation blood lead level threshold.

Further, the investigation found that the Medical Center wasn’t reporting the lead testing results to state health authorities, even though such reports are mandated in Texas.

In response those findings, Army spokesperson Colonel Kathleen Turner said: “We are committed to providing a safe and secure environment on all of our installations and to providing the highest quality of care to our service members, their families and all those entrusted to our care.”

Fort Knox

In late July, after the Army was presented with Reuters’ findings, it said it had “instituted new procedures to ensure that all reporting requirements are properly observed” nationwide.

One base, Fort Knox, is taking a more concrete step toward fixing the problem.

In addition to the covered porch’s high weight finding, Reuters’ lab testing found lead levels in the home of one particular resident of the Kentucky base at more than 28 times the federal threshold. That resident took the results to the base’s garrison commander.

Knox Hills, the landlord for the more than 2,300 homes on the base, responded with a neighborhood-wide lead paint abatement project.

“Knox Hills is taking the proper steps,” said Army spokesperson Colonel Kathleen Turner.


Tagged categories: Health and safety; Lead; Lead paint abatement; Safety

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