Last month, Reuters uncovered a dangerous lapse in lead safety on army bases that left thousands of military families — particularly young children — at risk. Military housing is meant to provide a safe haven for the men and women who risk their lives for this country. However, recent data shows that for service members at Fort Benning — as well as dozens of other military bases across America — the biggest risk to their families lurks inside their homes.
Lead Poisoning in Military Homes
Lead paint is a danger in many historic homes. As lead paint starts to chip, peel, or crack, it releases toxic particles. Kids are particularly at risk for inhaling or ingesting these particles, leading to dangerous levels of lead in their blood. The effects of lead poisoning included slowed development and growth, hearing or speech impairment, brain damage, and damage to the nervous system.
Army housing is the last place many would expect to find testing oversights and a failure to report lead poisoning in tested children. The Army mandates professional testing and abatement when lead is identified in military-owned or leased homes, and the state of Georgia requires hospitals to share the results of lead testing with state health authorities. But the military has a history of overlooking — or even burying — potential lead hazards due to the cost of testing and abatement in compliance with federal safety regulations.
2,274 of Fort Benning’s family homes have been found to contain lead-based paint. Over the last 6 years, 31 of the base’s roughly 2,000 children were found to have high lead content in their blood. According to the CDC, there’s no safe level of lead in the blood, and just one instance of lead poisoning is enough to warrant a public health response. The facility at Fort Benning failed to report the children who tested positive for lead poisoning, leading to continued exposure and, in some cases, permanent damage to the kids’ mental and physical development.
Army Response to the Lead-Paint Problem
In response to the data uncovered by Reuters, top Army officials have pledged in-depth lead testing, not only of deteriorating paint in historic homes but also of the water and soil around homes built before 1978. Inspections to military properties could cost upward of $386 million. The hospital at Fort Benning has also started offering walk-in lead testing to concerned families. Army Secretary Mark Esper responded to the lead crisis, saying, “[Those affected] are all our Army families, and we intend to take care of them the best we can, particularly the children, because the biggest concern is the ingestion of lead by children.” Esper added, “At some point, we will go back and look at procedures and try to understand what happened and why some of these homes got to the point that they did.”
Clean Environment Group makes historic homes around Virginia Highlands safer for kids and families using fully certified lead abatement procedures. Eliminate the risk of lead poisoning from paint, pipes, and lead dust. Contact us to schedule lead remediation for your home.