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Army bases in Kansas react to report on lead poisoning in military housing

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks with senior leaders of the 1st Infantry Division at the base conference center on Fort Riley, Kan., May 14, 2015. (Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hinton/U.S Navy).

Fort Riley in Kansas is among the U.S. Army bases named in a blistering report by Reuters about lead poisoning in military housing.

But Fort Riley says only one case of lead poisoning in a child has been detected there in the last six years.

Reuters obtained medical data from the Army that showed at least 31 children tested high for lead at a Fort Benning hospital in Georgia over a recent 6-year period.

“Army data from other clinics showed at least 77 more high blood-lead tests for children at Fort Polk in Louisiana, Fort Riley in Kansas and Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in Texas,” the news service said.

Base officials at Fort Riley addressed the issue at a monthly town hall on Wednesday. They said Irwin Army Community Hospital performed more than 3,400 blood tests on children 5 years and younger from April 2012 to August 2018. Officials said one child showed a high level of lead, but investigation showed the source was something the family brought with them into Army housing.

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Most, if not all, on-base housing at Army bases around the country is privately owned and managed.

Lead paint was outlawed in 1978, but it still exists in older housing and can become ingested and cause brain damage if it peels.

Fort Riley has 1,180 housing units on base that were built before 1978. They are owned and managed by Corvias Group LLC. Base officials said units are visually inspected before being turned over to new tenants. If chipped or peeling lead paint is found, Corvias is responsible for abating it.

The Reuters report focused on Fort Benning and Army Col. J. Cale Brown’s young son, who “began refusing food, stopped responding to his name and lost most of his words.” At age 2 he was diagnosed with a developmental brain disorder caused by lead, which was found to be present in Brown’s base housing.

Fort Leavenworth has scheduled a town hall from 7 to 8 p.m.Monday at the post theater to discuss the subject of lead poisoning, even though the base does not have a lead problem, said public affairs operations officer George Marcec.

Garrison Commander Col. Marne Sutten will head a panel along with engineering and medical representatives and someone from the base’s private housing partner. They will discuss the issue and take questions.

Marcec said all on-base housing at Fort Leavenworth is either newer than 1978 or the presence of lead paint has been mitigated.

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© 2018 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.