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Baumholder playground shuttered over lead concerns

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 2, 2008

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — A Baumholder playground has been declared off limits after artificial turf at the site tested above the recommended permissible level for lead, Installation Management Commnad-Europe said Friday.

IMCOM-Europe recently ordered lead testing on artificial turf fields and playgrounds at U.S. Army garrisons across Europe, based upon a recent health advisory from the Centers for Disease Control.

So far, the Smith Barracks Child Development Center playground in Baumholder is the only facility to exceed the recommendation that lead levels not exceed 47 micrograms per-square foot. Two samples from the playground registered a lead count of 56 and 148 micrograms per square foot, according to IMCOM-Europe.

"It’s the only place where they found it and they ripped it up immediately," said Ken White, an IMCOM-Europe spokesman.

In June, three athletic fields at bases in South Korea were closed because of similar concerns.

The U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine–Europe is looking at samples from six other Europe garrisons with artificial turf: Bamberg, Vicenza, Livorno, Schinnen, Kaiserslautern and Grafenwöhr. While the test results are not completed at Kaiserslautern and Grafenwöhr, the results at the other garrisons yielded readings well below the recommended Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, according to IMCOM.

At the child development center on Smith Barracks, the playground surface was ordered to be replaced after two samples of the artificial turf yielded elevated readings. A total of 15 measurements were taken at the Smith Barracks playground, which measured positive in two places.

The other 13 samples from various locations throughout the playground area measured negative for lead, IMCOM reported.

"We took this prudent action out of an abundance of caution and our commitment to public safety, even though there is no evidence from the Child Development Center that there is an acute health risk related to play on this type of artificial surface," said Maureen Pikal, IMCOM-Europe safety chief.

The issue of lead-contaminated artificial turf has emerged as a concern in schools and youth sports programs.

The Centers for Disease control offers these tips for minimizing lead exposure from playing surfaces:

  • Wash children’s hands frequently and always before they eat.
  • Do not eat food or use pacifiers that have been dropped on the floor.
  • Remove shoes when entering the house or use door mats.

According to IMCOM-Europe, there has been one positive blood lead screen in the Baumholder community over the past 12 months, and that positive result was from a child new to the community who had not used the playground.

Parents can visit Baumholder’s U.S. Army Health Clinic for optional testing or call Community Health Care at DSN 485-7312 or commercial 067836-7312.

"We’ve been proactive with this. It’s been a little over a month since the (CDC) advisory came out and we’ve got a plan to fix it," said IMCOM-Europe spokesman Tom Saunders.


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