CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Sept. 25, 2018) -- The few remaining family housing units here with lead-based paint are either unoccupied or have residents who have been notified and given guidance on how to avoid potential hazards related to the material, the commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan explained during a public town hall Sept. 14.

During the event, Col. Phillip K. Gage also explained the processes Camp Zama has in place to test for, mitigate and eliminate lead-based paint; gave tips on how to avoid health risks associated with the material; and offered resources to find further information.

"We want to make sure everyone understands the Army's plan [for addressing the issue of lead-based paint]," Gage said.

There are 863 family housing units across Camp Zama and the nearby Sagamihara Family Housing Area, according to Camp Zama's Housing Office. Only 21 houses were built prior to 1978, the year the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned lead-based paint.

Of those 21 houses, eight on SFHA are unoccupied and are awaiting demolition, while the remaining 13 on Camp Zama that are occupied have undergone steps to mitigate any potential dangers.

"Our [Directorate of Public Works] Operations and Maintenance Division and our Engineering Division conduct inspections and sampling and testing for lead-based paint prior to beginning any projects in these older homes that have the potential to disturb any lead-based paint," said Gage. "The DPW Housing Division looks for damaged paint, and they will test if we have damaged paint in between occupants."

Installations Army-wide held similar town hall meetings recently to provide information on lead-based paint after several media outlets ran stories in August highlighting issues related to lead-based paint used in military housing.

Col. Kathleen Turner, a U.S. Army spokesperson, released a statement in the days following the stories.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we are going above and beyond current requirements to better ensure the safety of our Soldiers and their families," said Turner.

Lead-based paint poses no hazard if the paint itself is encapsulated and remains undisturbed. It is only when the paint deteriorates or is damaged, such as with chipping, that it has the potential to be released into the surrounding environment.

Gage recommended that Army housing residents properly maintain and inspect painted surfaces in their homes and report to DPW if they have paint deterioration. Children, particularly those under the age of 6, should be kept clear of areas that have deteriorating paint, Gage added.

Ronald Garcia said he attended the town hall to learn more about the situation at Camp Zama. As the environmental protection specialist at DPW, Garcia has a working knowledge of the issue, but said the event was beneficial for him.

"There was a lot of good information that I can share with my colleagues," said Garcia. "I commend [the Garrison] for putting out this information to the public. It was concise and described what is being done to address concerns with lead-based paint."

Although the majority of the Camp Zama community is not affected by having lead-based paint in their homes, everyone has a responsibility to remain informed, Garcia said.

"Everybody says, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,'"said Garcia. "Whether your house is presumed to have been built after 1978 [or after], you still have the duty to protect yourself and your family."