Michael Kosnett, M.D., M.P.H., at CU Anschutz School of Public Health in Aurora, CO, an expert in medical toxicology, occupational and environmental health who specializes in occupational and environmental toxicology of heavy metals, including lead, weighed in about the type of post-remediation lead testing that should be used at the Ascent Classical Academy building (swipe or bulk testing), and what the residual lead levels are allowed to be in this situation.
Lead is a highly poisonous element that, according to UNICEF, is responsible for 1.5% of global deaths. Children are particularly susceptible to its effects.
The building set to house the new Ascent Classical Academy charter school at 545 31 Road was formerly used as an indoor firing range for seven years. This left it contaminated with diffuse lead dust which, if not adequately remediated, would pose a lead poisoning hazard to occupants, and a special threat to children. Ascent says the building has been remediated, but the post-remediation report Acsent published on its website (pdf) in August showing the lead levels that remain in different areas of the building show much of the building has not yet been remediated to acceptable levels.
There was also confusion among public health experts about the appropriate type of lead testing to be used in this situation, after a Colorado Department of Public Health employee who specializes in closed shooting ranges said swipe testing was an invalid method in this circumstance, and bulk testing should have been used instead.
Dr. Kosnett looked at Ascent’s post-remediation testing report (pdf), and wrote,
“Surface contamination inside buildings is typically assessed by wipe testing. Bulk sampling typically applies to soil. I agree with you that evaluation of residual contamination of the building and its contents, including the air ducts and the HVAC system, is of crucial importance. My recommendation is that the building owner independently consult with an industrial hygienist who is experienced and certified to assess residential and commercial buildings for lead contamination. I can recommend Joe Gifford, CIH[Certified Industrial Hygienist] of AGW (formerly AG Wassenaar). I have collaborated with Mr. Gifford on projects for 25 years. He has considerable expertise. Mr. Gifford can not only assess the contractor’s report, but also conduct his own independent evaluation.”
Ascent’s building will have to meet an impending new and tighter standard for lead contamination of indoor floors in areas occupied by children
Dr. Kosnett added that,
“EPA, in response to a lawsuit, announced on August 1, 2023 that it is planning to reduce the clearance level for [lead for] indoor floors in areas occupied by children from 10 µg/ft2 to 3 µg/ft2. Therefore, the school should seek to meet the impending, more protective standards.”
The new rule proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is called Reconsideration of the Dust-Lead Hazard Standards and Dust-Lead Post-Abatement Clearance Levels, and it was published in the Federal register on August 1, 2023. It says that if a lead abatement is performed at a property, then “EPA’s regulations set requirements for doing so.”
The proposed rule sets a new, much lower limit of 3 mcg/sq. ft. instead of 10 mcg/sq. ft., for residual lead, and it will apply to elementary and secondary schools.
EPA proposed the change because,
“Lead exposure has the potential to impact individuals of all ages, but it is especially harmful to young children because the developing brain can be particularly sensitive to environmental contaminants. Because of this, reducing childhood lead exposure is a priority for both EPA and the Federal Government,” and “[B]enefits include avoided adverse health effects in children, including decreased attention-related behavioral problems, decreased cognitive performance, reduced post-natal growth, delayed puberty, and decreased kidney function.”
Once a proposed new rule is published in the Federal Register, the public has several months to comment on it. This rule is open for public comment until October 1, 2023. After that, EPA will consider the public comments before issuing the final rule in the Code of Federal Regulations, so the rule could be in place within a few months.