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NYC Schools See Paint Inspections, Remediation

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

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Early last month more than 1,800 children’s classrooms in New York City were reported to have been contaminated with hazardous, deteriorated lead paint.

Testing was conducted in late June after the school year ended.

Lead Testing

Prompted by an investigation by radio station WNYC that originally found loose lead-paint chips and high-dust levels in four schools, it was decided that hundreds of elementary-schools in New York City would be tested.

According to Gothamist, New York City banned the use of lead paint in the 1960s, however, records reveal that school systems continued to use the paint until around 1980. Due to this information, the United States Department of Education conducted lead inspections in buildings constructed before 1985.

Various reports indicate that even in small cases of exposure, the neurotoxin can be especially harmful to children, causing IQ losses, hyperactivity, aggression and other behavioral problems.

In June of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency updated its standards for lead, specifically in dust on floors, windowsills and miscellaneous surfaces in order to protect children from its harmful effects. To continue to protect children’s health and make progress on the dust-lead issue, the EPA has lowered the dust-lead hazard standards from 40 micrograms of lead per square foot to 10 micrograms per square foot on floors and from 250 micrograms to 100 micrograms on windowsills.

When inspections were conducted in NYC, school custodians first performed visual inspections for deterioration, in addition to peeling and chipping paint. Where these instances were found, a certified inspector was then brought into the school to test whether the paint was lead-based. Of the 3-K through first-grade classrooms tested for lead, totaling roughly 8,438 classrooms, 1,860 were reported to be contaminated.

The DOE has since reported that it will be enhancing its protocols beyond classrooms and plans to conduct inspections and X-ray fluorescence (XRF) tests in cafeterias and libraries serving children under the age of six as well.

Following the inspections, the DOE also reported that stabilization and remediation would be concluded prior to children going back to school at the beginning of September. DOE spokesperson Miranda Barbot insisted, “Our schools are safe, and this summer we’ve enhanced our protocols and strengthened communication with families around the steps we take to prevent lead exposure for kids under six.”

She also added that the DOE would “remain vigilant throughout the year and regularly inspect, test and immediately address any concern.”

What’s Happening Now

Announced by Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza, the DOE and the School Construction Authority, all of the more than 1,800 classrooms found to have been contaminated with lead paint have since been successfully remediated.

Next steps slated to be completed by the 2020-21 school year include additional remediation to cafeterias and libraries serving children under six. Additional abatement work is also expected to be complete by the SCA in spaces that undergo a capital project. The DOE is also working to plan on addressing additional educational common spaces.

In order to increase oversight and transparency, the DOE has posted a complete list of the classrooms that were affected, in addition to proactive steps that can help track and communicate remediation efforts. The efforts include:

  • Expanding inspections to first-grade classrooms;
  • Developing a centralized database with results of inspections posted online;
  • Custodians receiving new guidance on inspecting and addressing paint conditions. (Custodians are now required to formally and publicly log findings of visual inspections and report deterioration three times throughout the year—at the beginning of the school year, at the start of the December winter recess and at the conclusion of the school year); and
  • Creating an online tool for staff and parents to report deteriorating paint in classrooms, cafeterias and libraries, which will immediately trigger an inspection.

Since the summer scare, professional services firm Ernst + Young is conducting a review of the DOE’s procedures and protocols regarding lead paint testing. The review is expected to be complete by the end of this school year.


Tagged categories: Coating inspection; EPA; EPA; Government; Health and safety; Inspection; Lead; Lead; Lead paint abatement; Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP); Lead rule; Lead test kits; Maintenance + Renovation; NA; North America; Projects - Commercial; Rehabilitation/Repair; Renovation; Schools

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