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Evidence of Lead Poisoning at U.S. Military Bases – What You Should Know

As initially reported by Reuters on August 16, 2018, undisclosed military and state health records, as well as testing initiated by Reuters for lead in soldiers’ homes, revealed serious issues at some of America’s largest military bases.

Federal law defines lead-based paint as containing 0.5 percent or more lead by weight. Sales of this type of paint have been banned since 1978. Unfortunately, many older homes are still coated in lead paint, which becomes dangerous when it peels, chips or turns to dust – making it easy for kids to swallow or breathe in.

Reuters tested five homes at Fort Benning in Georgia, using a methodology designed with a Columbia University geochemist. All five homes showed they had hazardous levels of deteriorating lead paint, within easy reach of children. One case exceeded the federal threshold by a factor of 58.

Reuters offered lead testing to military families at several bases, the highest result came from Fort Knox in Kentucky. A peeling paint sample from a covered porch, where small kids play, contained 50 percent lead by weight, which is 100 times the federal hazard level.

Testing turned up problems in other parts of the country as well. At West Point in New York, paint chips falling from a family’s front door contained lead at 19 times the federal threshold.

Army data gathered from other clinics showed at least 77 more high blood-lead tests for children at Fort Polk in Louisiana, Fort Riley in Kansas, and Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in Texas.

Paint hazards were also found in housing at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, a base where the military recently found water taps with high lead levels.

From 2011 to 2016, Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, which processes blood tests from many bases nationwide, registered more than 1,050 small children who tested above the CDC’s elevated threshold, the center’s records show.

In 2015, the Defense Department’s Inspector General found that a Clark and Michaels partnership had failed to correct lead paint hazards in homes at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. The Army pledged to address the issue with contractors, IG records show.

Deteriorating paint from these houses – in Georgia, Kentucky, New York, Texas, and Virginia – had “very high” or “extremely high” lead content that puts children at immediate risk, said Alexander van Geen, a research professor of geochemistry who oversaw the lab analysis at Columbia’s Lamont Earth Observatory.

Since 2016, Reuters has investigated childhood lead poisoning across the United States, creating a first-ever nationwide map pinpointing exposure hot spots down to the zip code and Census Tract level.

Reuters estimates these units house 700,000 Americans, including around 100,000 children ages 0-5, based on the number of homes (206,000), occupancy rate (93 percent), and a study of military family demographics. David R. Segal, the paper co-author and a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, reviewed Reuters’ calculations and deemed them reasonable estimates.

These homes put military kids at risk. Reuters also obtained medical data from the Army showing that at least 31 small children had tested high for lead at a Fort Benning, GA hospital over a recent six-year period. All tested above the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold for elevated lead levels – 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood. Any child who tests high warrants a public health response, the CDC says.

A $10 finger-prick test can spot a child exposed to lead, yet millions of U.S. children are never screened.

If you and your family lived at any one of these bases or if you think your children were exposed to lead-based paint while living on base, we urge you to get your child tested. The legal team for Injured Veterans is here for military veterans and their families. Please contact us immediately, if you find that your family has been exposed to toxic levels of lead paint. Call us at 1-866-779-9990 or fill out the pop-up form on this website. Read the whole story here: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-military-housing/