FORT LEE, Va. -- Installations across the Army have been directed to host town hall discussions to address lead paint issues that were discovered in historical structures and housing at Fort Benning, Ga.
The Fort Lee event is scheduled for Friday, 10-11 a.m., at the Soldier Support Center auditorium, B Avenue, building 3400. Due to the approach of Hurricane Florence, any changes to the scheduled event will be announced on the installation Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ArmyFortLee.
Lead-based paint was discovered in on-post historic housing units at Fort Benning, home of the Armor and Infantry schools. A heavy metal, lead was used extensively in paints during the better part of the last century. It is a known toxin and may cause delayed development and damage to the nervous system as well as other ailments.
During the awareness efforts, installation leaders and subject matter experts will take related questions and concerns from the Fort Lee community. Those unable to attend are also invited to ask any questions via the Facebook page, where the slide presentation from the meeting will also be made available.
“We are aware some families across the Army have expressed concerns about potential risks in government housing,” said Patrick L. MacKenzie, deputy to the Fort Lee garrison commander. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are going above-and-beyond current requirements to ensure military members, their families and others who work and live on our installation are fully informed on the issues and feel safe and secure in government housing.”
The Army’s LBP education and awareness effort focuses on housing built prior to the federal government’s 1978 ban on lead-based paint used for residential structures and public buildings. The oldest housing units at Fort Lee were built in 1996, which excludes it from this category.
“There is no lead-based paint in family housing and no lead-based paint in any of the childcare facilities or youth centers,” said Carol Anderson, chief, Environmental Management Division, Directorate of Public Works. “However, there are other sources of lead paint that families should be aware of and that they may be bringing into their homes; such as toys, foreign-made food cans and certain hobby materials.”
While lead paint was not used in any of the existing homes here, there are buildings – mostly warehouses and other structures – that precede the lead-based paint prohibitions. These buildings undergo regular inspections and are monitored according to policy and regulation, said Anderson.
“Every effort is made to manage the LBP in place and to minimize the risk of exposure,” she said. “For instance, occupants should report flaking or peeling paint in facilities and request an assessment of the condition and the exposure potential through a work order (DA Form 4283) to the Directorate of Public Works. A repair or encapsulation may be initiated if there is significant damage with the potential for exposure. Otherwise proper cleaning of areas reduces the chance of spreading dust or debris from lead-painted surfaces.”
A fact of note, LBP is not considered hazardous if it is contained under other coats of paint, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, if it is peeling, cracking, stripped or otherwise disturbed, it can be hazardous if ingested.
In addition to periodic inspections, the EMD is involved in ongoing efforts to keep employees informed and aware about LBP, Anderson said.
“We are proactive with providing educational materials about lead hazards as well as responding to reports of damaged or deteriorating lead paint in buildings and taking the appropriate response action,” she said.
Furthermore, building employees and occupants are trained to assess and rate the condition of their facilities for LBP on a yearly basis, Anderson said.
“The environmental staff reviews all work orders to insure work performed in pre-1978 buildings includes properly certified workers and that cleaning and clearances before re-occupancy are completed,” she said. “In addition, the employees of the Base Operations Contractor who perform maintenance and repair on the installation facilities have general awareness of lead hazards and report any concerns to EMD.”
Military members and employees living off the installation and who are concerned with LBP can inquire through housing managers and local authorities.
Symptoms and signs of LBP exposure in children include learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness, fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, hearing loss, seizures and eating things that are not food, according to the Army Public Health Command website.
In adults, the signs and symptoms include high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, difficulty with memory and concentration, headache, abdominal pain, mood disorders, reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm count, miscarriage and stillbirth or premature birth.
Those who have lived or worked at other installations and are concerned with LBP exposure should see a medical professional.
For more information about LBP, including a list of protective measures, visit https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/workplacehealth/ih/Pages/Lead.aspx.