BAVARIA — Recent problems with lead at Army housing in the U.S. renewed interest and procedures for testing for lead in water and paint here at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria.
An article posted by Reuters Aug. 16, 2018, noted the incidence of elevated blood lead levels in children and the serious health effects related to lead exposures from living in Army housing.
In response, leadership with USAG Bavaria and 7th Army Training Command hosted town halls at each of its four locations in Grafenwoehr, Vilseck, Hohenfels and Garmisch to address concerns regarding lead on-post and at Army housing.
While lead is not a systemic problem at USAG Bavaria, leadership hosted town halls in September and October identifying lead hazards, detailing detection processes already in place and clarifying protection methods.
Where do lead hazards come from?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites different sources of lead, such as in paint, gasoline and water. And it can be carried through different pathways including air, food, water dust, and soil.
The U.S. Army tests for lead in both paint and water in housing, schools, childcare centers, barracks and administrative offices.
The U.S. federal government banned lead-based paint in 1978, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But in Germany, no clear federal guidance has been provided, though lead-based paint discontinued as early as 1961 as a best-management practice. Lead-based paint is still used in Germany in some outdoor paints typically used on monuments, according to the USAG Bavaria Environmental Division.
Lead can enter drinking water through corrosion of plumbing materials, according to the EPA. Lead has not been found in water sources providing water to the USAG Bavaria community, according to the Environmental Division. Rather, lead discovered in water samples stems most often from plumbing materials such as water fixtures with shredded threads.
What is USAG Bavaria doing about lead in paint?
A qualified risk assessor visually inspects paint for damage, according to DPW. Additionally, inspectors take samples of significantly damaged paint using hand-held x-ray fluorescence spectrometers.
Dust wipe samples are taken in areas where children may contact damaged paint, paint chips, or lead-containing dust.
The risk assessor may also take soil samples, particularly near swing sets where children often play outside.
The initial risk assessment is a screening procedure. Further risk assessments may be taken if the screen identifies a lead hazard.
The Army’s lead-based paint management program requires all abatement work in child occupied facilities and target housing to be done by workers who are properly trained, equipped and supervised according to EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.
Housing officials with USAG Bavaria disclose to residents when residents sign for their homes whether lead paint might be present. Preventive steps to protect them and their families are also provided.
Lead-based paint is not hazardous if it is contained under other coats of paint. However, if it is peeling, cracking, stripped or otherwise disturbed, it can be hazardous if ingested. Service member sand family members who see peeling paint should report it immediately to the USAG Bavaria housing office.
Landlords of private-rental housing are required by law to ensure houses are clear of lead in paint and water, according to the USAG Bavaria housing office.
What is USAG Bavaria doing about lead in water?
One hundred percent of buildings on USAG Bavaria installations — including leased housing — are tested within a 5-year cycle.
Officials with the Directorate of Public Works, or DPW, recently enhanced methods of testing water samples for the presence of lead.
Water testing is ongoing and will be conducted at facilities across USAG Bavaria, which include Army family housing areas, child development centers, schools and youth centers.
Housing staff coordinate testing times with housing tenants at government-owned and government-leased housing areas. Each sampling event takes approximately 10 minutes per housing unit.
DPW staff personally notify residents and immediately take corrective measures if they detect higher-than-normal levels of lead in your water.
Why is USAG Bavaria testing for lead in water?
Water testing has always been conducted regularly at Army installations in accordance with federal, state and local standards. But new guidance — developed by Army Environmental Command and the Army Public Health Center — improves sampling processes and expands sampling across Army family housing for lead content.
In 2013, the Installation Management Command beefed up efforts to detect lead in water at high-risk facilities, defined as those providing drinking water to children under age six and pregnant mothers. High-risk facilities include child development centers, youth centers and schools.
In 2016 and 2017, protocols were further updated.
If lead is found at any water outlet at levels above 15 parts per billion (ppb), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends taking action to reduce the lead.
Additionally, DPW now tests a collection of three samples. The first tests water immediately coming out of a faucet. The second is collected 30 seconds after the water has run. The third sample is collected tests two minutes after the water has run.
What are the symptoms of lead poisoning and what should I do if I suspect lead poisoning?
According to Bavaria Health Command, signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children include developmental delay, learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness and fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, hearing loss and seizures.
Signs and symptoms in adults might include high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, difficulties with memory or concentration, headache, abdominal pain, mood disorders, reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm, miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women.
If USAG Bavaria community members feel their children have been exposed to lead-based paint, they should contact any Bavaria health clinic or TRICARE network provider immediately.
U.S. Army clinics can take a blood test and provide results in about two weeks.
If you have questions or concerns, contact your local Army Health Clinic. In Grafenwoehr dial DSN 590-3000, CIV 06371-9464-3000. In Hohenfel, call DSN 590-3300, CIV 06371-9464-3300. In Vilseck and Garmisch, call DSN 590-2300, CIV 06371-9464-2300.
What can I do to protect myself and my family?
How do I know if my house or work place has been tested positive for lead?
The USAG Bavaria Environmental Division provides test results for all USAG Bavaria locations. Here are test results as of October 2018: