Ansbach, Germany (Sept. 13, 2018) – The U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach commander, Col. Steven Pierce, and subject matter experts from medical, environmental and public health arenas conducted a community town hall today to address potential concerns of community members in reference to a recent discovery of lead-based paint in some U.S. Army facilities in the United States.
What is the situation at USAG Ansbach?
- USAG Ansbach has 85 pre-1978 Army Family Housing buildings (AFH); 28 of those are not used as AFH
- All were mitigated for lead-based paint (LBP) by major renovation and periodic repainting
- The Directorate of Public Works (DPW) annually inspects buildings suspected to have a LBP hazard
- DPW then posts disclosure letters for the presence of LBP in buildings
- The Ansbach Middle High School was built in 1974 and has been extensively remodeled
- The Ansbach Elementary School was built in 1986 and is certified no LBP
- The Child Development Center was built in 2013 and is certified no LBP
How does the garrison reduce lead exposure? Since 1997, Ansbach has surveyed facilities to identify and address lead-based paint (LBP) hazards. Housing renovation projects removed LBP and on-going maintenance projects further reduce exposure. Child-occupied facilities and playgrounds are certified lead-free (new construction).
A survey of a representative sample of Army Family Housing is planned for Fiscal Year 19; this means a qualified inspector visually screens homes for paint damage and collects paint chips and/or dust-wipe samples to measure presence or absence of lead if necessary. If lead is found, renovation and maintenance is conducted to eliminate or minimize lead hazards; painting seals most surfaces, eliminating the risk of exposure.
Lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust; it is found in soil, water, dust, crystal glasses, and pottery that can enter your home. It was used to make batteries, paint (before 1978 in USA), and plumbing materials (before 1878 in Bavaria). Housing built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint that can be released if not properly maintained.
Who is at risk of lead exposure? Lead is toxic to humans and animals if inhaled or ingested; there is no safe level of lead, so exposure needs to be reduced to a minimum. Lead is particularly dangerous to fetuses and children’s developing bodies, brains and nervous systems. Children are more susceptible because of frequent hand-to-mouth activity. Symptoms of lead exposure in children may include decreases in mental ability and/or developmental issues. Parents should discuss their concerns with their medical care provider who can test children for blood lead levels.
When was the use of lead restricted? Bavaria banned lead-containing pipes for drinking water in 1878. In the 1960’s Germany and Italy banned products containing lead. The USA banned lead-based paint – including Department of Defense (DoD) facilities outside the continental United States – in 1978. In 1989 the European Union highly restricted use of lead-based paint.
Best practices to reduce lead risks:
- Be cautious of old or cheap toys
- Wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers and toys often
- Report peeling paint, deteriorated wood or water damage to DPW Customer Service 09802-83-2115
- Run water before use for drinking, food and formula preparation
- Use only cold water to prepare food and drinks
- Clean or replace faucet aerators
To learn more about lead hazards, visit the Army Public Health Center, which has a web page with useful information on lead hazards, including measures to protect your children, and links to resources: https://phc.amedd.Army.mil/topics/workplacehealth/ih/Pages/Lead.aspx
Various other agencies provide resources, e.g. the Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (www.hud.gov), and, of course, your local healthcare provider.