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Lead testing conducted on playground equipment throughout the Heidelberg School District in the past month revealed three pieces of equipment with levels above federal lead thresholds.

Parts of three spring rocker fixtures were tested and replaced in the past week, said Jose Tovar, a Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe facilities engineer.

The orange body of a spring rocker at Patrick Henry Elementary School and the heads of two spring rockers at Babenhausen Elementary School were found to have lead content in the paint that exceeded the .06 percent per weight federal lead threshold, said Dennis Bohannon, a DODDS spokesman.

Playgrounds at Mannheim and Dexheim elementary schools were also tested and did not have any equipment with high lead paint content, Tovar said.

Testing in the Heidelberg district was initiated last month after equipment at Darmstadt Elementary School was found to have elevated lead levels in the paint, Tovar said. That equipment has since been replaced.

To be on the safe side, DODDS will test playground equipment throughout DODDS-Europe in the next few weeks, Tovar said. As soon as funding is in place and a contract is set up, the testing of sites will begin.

“It’s to once and for all put everybody’s mind at ease that the equipment’s been checked and taken care of,” Tovar said. “We want to alleviate everybody’s concern.”

Lead paint is considered a health threat only when the paint is peeling, cracking or chipping, according to the federal Consumer Products Safety Commission, whose standards DODDS adheres to. Lead paint poses a health risk for children if they repeatedly ingest paint chips or other detritus.

The fixtures replaced in the Heidelberg district actually had intact lead-based paint, and paint was removed for the testing, Tovar said. The testing was done by the German company contracted for the playground equipment, and was then sent to a German lab.

“It was in good shape,” he said of the affected equipment. “They went ahead and scraped a sample of paint off these things and took it from there.”

DODDS instituted more stringent lead paint standards in 2000, and all DODDS equipment was tested then for lead content, Tovar said. Equipment with higher lead content, such as that at Darmstadt Elementary, probably did not test positive because the paint was intact at the time. The fixtures at Babenhausen and Patrick Henry were installed in the mid-’90s, Tovar said.

DODDS officials adhere to a system of “periodic surveillance” to keep tabs on equipment with lead-based paint, and to make sure the paint stays intact, Tovar said.


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