Toxic lead clear up at US schools

Recent testing at 11 schools and 16 child care centres in Kansas has revealed elevated levels of toxic lead in the soil.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans to remove and replace the soil as part of an on-going project to deal with contaminated land in the county.

The 110 square mile site is situated on an old mine where lead mining and milling took place for more than a century.

EPA regional administrator Karl Brooks said: "EPA's mission to protect human health and the environment carries a special obligation to take action against environmental threats to the health and development of young children.

"These removal actions will protect more than 5,300 of St. Francois County's children from unnecessary and potentially harmful exposures to lead in places where they learn and play."

Children are especially at risk from the effects of lead poisoning, especially those under seven years of age.

Health risks from lead poisoning include brain damage, developmental delays, behavioural problems, anaemia, liver and kidney damage, hearing loss and hyperactivity.

The EPA and schools will work together to issue safety precautions while the clear up operation takes place and the Missouri Department of Health will offer free blood lead screenings.

EPA estimates that the initial phase of removing contaminated soils from the 27 facilities will cost at least $6 million, not including additional costs for contaminated soil disposal and new soil replacement.

EPA will pay for the initial costs of removal, but may seek to recover some or all of its total costs if one or more parties responsible for the contamination are properly identified. Alison Brown



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