FORT RILEY, Kan. -- In August, several national media outlets ran stories highlighting issues pertaining to lead-based paint in military housing. Though there have been no housing-related lead issues here, Fort Riley was named in the articles, prompting a discussion prior to the monthly Town hall Meeting on Sept. 12.

Fort Riley has lead-based paint in 443 structures on post, which accounts for 1,180, or about one-third, of the homes on post. The homes in question are those in Historic Main Post, Colyer Manor, Warren Peterson Heights and McClellan Place.

Col. Stephen Shrader, Fort Riley garrison commander, said the issue is not a surprise.
Structures built prior to 1978 generally have lead-based paint.

"That is when we banned it and since that time we have been mitigating, remediating and covering that lead based paint with non-lead-based paint," he said. "We know there is lead-based paint in there, we have always known there is lead-based paint in there … we have worked to mitigate, in accordance with all the federal regulations, those hazards as they relate to lead-based paint."

When people are signing into pre-1978 post housing they receive notification about the potential hazard. They are given information from the Environmental Protection Agency and sign an addendum stating they received it.

"As long as (the paint) is encapsulated, it is not a problem," Shrader said. "It's when you start seeing the chipping, the scraping, the dust, paint chips falling to the floor; kids pick it up and put it in their mouth, you don't want to be inhaling that or ingesting that."

Generally speaking, the existence of lead-based paint is not a problem. However, anyone who lives in one of the pre-1978 homes and notices the paint peeling should call their housing office and report it. They should also take measures to ensure their children do not eat it.

Other sources of lead

Paint is not the only way children and adults are exposed to potentially high levels of lead. Water, hobbies, utensils, toys and cosmetics are but a few other potential sources.
"I myself am a huge firearms fan, an aficionado," Shrader said. "I reload my own ammo, so lead is something I have to concern myself with."

Jeff Williamson, director of the Directorate of Public Works, spoke about the safety of the drinking water. In past years there have been isolated cases of lead found in drinking water samples.

"Those positive results come from the faucets," Williamson said. "There is no lead that comes out of our water plant. What happens is that there is a residual effect of some lead in some of the faucets. What we do is we try to immediately take those out."

In addition to testing water sources, children are tested to ensure they have not ingested lead paint. Col. Donald Robinson, deputy commander for Health and Readiness at Irwin Army Community Hospital explained the testing process.

"We test children 12 to 24 months old for blood lead and children who are 72 months and have not been screened," he said.

Between April 2012 and August 2018 more than 3,400 blood lead level tests were administered at Fort Riley. In that time, 11 children tested above the levels the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Of those 11, four lived in Fort Riley housing and seven lived off post. Of the four living on post, only one lived in a pre-1978 home believed to have lead-based paint. Upon investigation it was determined lead had been brought into the house from an outside source, Robinson said.