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IN THE LEAD Urgent parent warning after high levels of dangerous substance found in US parks

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

IN THE LEAD Urgent parent warning after high levels of dangerous substance found in US parks – and kids under six are most at risk.

PARKS across the country have tested for concerning lead levels as the CDC warns that kids under the age of six are most at risk of harmful effects.

City workers from Durham, North Carolina, which is about 25 miles northwest of Raleigh, fenced off areas at two parks on Friday that showed lead levels above the United States Environmental Protection Agency's threshold.

"It's definitely a little alarming knowing that we've been out here for years and this problem has existed for a while," resident Marissa Peterson told local ABC affiliate WTVD.

Preliminary results of soil samples collected by Mid-Atlantic Associates show seven spots at Walltown Park and eight spots at East Durham Park that measured above the EPA threshold of 400 parts per million, according to a memo sent on Thursday by the City Manager's Office that was obtained by the outlet.

The soil was tested following concerns brought up by a December 2022 study from Duke University researchers.

According to the study, samples collected had levels of lead three to four times the EPA threshold, however, city officials did not disclose the specific levels from their findings in the recent memo.

Lyon and Northgate Park were also tested but showed no issues.

The playgrounds at all five parks did not identify "any potential containment concerns," according to the memo.

Seven of the eight spots that were above the EPA threshold at East Durham Park were near a parking lot that is not often used by visitors.

The other spot was behind a covered shelter.

At Walltown Park, one spot was near the edge of a basketball court and another spot was roughly fifty feet from the playground.

The other five spots were spread throughout the park.

In Wappingers Falls, New York, which is about 73 miles north of Manhattan, an environmental survey crew collected soil samples from Temple Park in July.

"We do not have any information or reason to believe there is a public health risk at this park or in the Village at this time," Erin Clary, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health told the Poughkeepsie Journal at the time.

"However, state experts are expediting the necessary evaluations to confirm that this is the case and determine if any additional actions are necessary."

The sample collection came after the Wall Street Journal reported that old cables left behind by companies such as AT&T and Verizon hung above the neighborhood park and contaminated the soil with lead.

On August 1, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the lead levels collected meet state and federal safety standards for children’s play areas, according to a memo released by her office.

Lead exposure can happen when a child touches, swallows, or breathes in lead or lead dust, according to the CDC.

The exposure is more harmful to children under the age of six, according to the agency, due to their rapid developmental stage.

Younger children are also more likely to be exposed because they tend to put their hands and objects in their mouths.

Lead exposure can have the following effects:

  • Brain and nervous system damage

  • Slowed growth and development

  • Learning and behavior issues

  • Hearing and speech problems

Exposure can be hard to detect as most children do not have "obvious immediate symptoms," according to the CDC.

That is why it is important to get a blood lead test if you think that your child was potentially exposed.

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