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Parents demand answers on playground lead in DC

The community meeting Wednesday night comes after WUSA9 broke news of high lead levels in 17 DC playgrounds.

WASHINGTON — Local parents attended a "Community Forum on the Safety of Playgrounds and Artificial Turf Fields in D.C.," sponsored by the Park View UNC and D.C. Safe Healthy Playing Fields on Wednesday.

Credit: Becca Knier
Parents attend a community hearing at Park View Recreation Center in DC

The forum included panelists Diana Zuckerman with the National Center for Health Research, Neuroscientist Kathleen Michels, and Diana Conway, President of D.C. Safe Healthy Playing Fields.

Credit: Becca Knier
Diana Zuckerman speaks at a community forum at Park View Recreation Center

Recycled tire pieces used on the ground for 17 D.C. playgrounds were found to have "actionable levels" of lead, according to a report released Sept. 20 by the District's Department of General Services. 

Credit: WUSA
Crumb rubber taken from Takoma Education Campus playground

This comes after independent labs, including the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, Michigan, tested recycled tire crumb rubber at school playgrounds and found potentially toxic levels of lead at two elementary schools.

Credit: The Ecology Center

RELATED: Parents beware: Here are the 17 playgrounds in DC with toxic levels of lead

"In any given tire, maybe only 60 percent of it is actually made of rubber and the rest is hardening agents or additional chemical additives, bracing materials. You’ve got fiberglass. You've got zinc." Kevin Bell of Public Employees for Environmental Reform, said.

"The reason why there has been no sort of broad ranging study on this is that a tire’s chemical makeup is confidential business information," Bell said. "Every tire manufacturing company keeps that a closely guarded secret, so the only way to find out what’s in it is to test every piece individually."

Credit: WUSA
Kevin Bell of Public Employees for Environmental Reform

The new DGS report lists 17 playgrounds, listed below.

  • Aiton Elementary School: 533 48th Place Northeast
  • Bancroft Elementary School: 1755 Newton Street Northwest
  • Cardozo Education Campus: 1200 Clifton Street Northwest
  • Dorothy I. Height Elementary School: 1300 Allison Street Northwest
  • Eaton Elementary School: 3373 Van Ness Street Northwest
  • H.D. Cooke Elementary School: 2525 17th Street Northwest
  • Janney Elementary School: 4130 Albermarle Street Northwest
  • Langdon Educational Campus: 1900 Evarts Street Northwest
  • Nalle Elementary School: 219 50th Street Southeast
  • Oyster-Adams Bilingual School (Adams Campus): 2020 19th Street Northwest
  • River Terrace Education Campus: 405 Anacostia Ave. Northwest
  • Roosevelt High School: 2020 19th Street Northwest
  • Shepherd Elementary School: 7800 14th Street Northwest
  • Thomas Elementary School: 650 Anacostia Ave. Northwest
  • Thomson Elementary School: 1200 L Street Northwest
  • Truesdell Education Campus: 800 Ingraham Street Northwest
  • Turner Elementary School: 3264 Stanton Road Southeast

Schools rated as having the highest levels include Aiton, Janney, Thomas, Thomson,Turner Elementary schools as well as Cardozo Education Campus. D.C. DGS says it pressure washed and vacuumed up all 17 sites.

RELATED: DC charter schools put up fight against legislation that would make them more accountable to the public

First grade teacher at Bruce-Monroe Elementary School Jessica Goldkind recalled how her students tracked in crumb rubber, "Little kind of rubberish pebbles that they pick up. They get their hands in it. They get dirty. It ends up in the water fountain. Sometimes they bring some in. It gets in the classroom on occasion. It happened to me today."

"Reading that it can be harmful to students, I need to know if that’s the case, so I can advocate for my students," Goldkind said.

On Thursday, Oct. 3, D.C. Councilmember Robert C. White Jr., Chair of the Committee on Facilities and Procurement, will hold a Public Oversight Roundtable on Environmental Hazards in Recreational Spaces and the Facilities Management Division of the Department of General Services. The Public Oversight Roundtable will take place in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., at 10:00 AM.

The purpose of the roundtable is to provide transparency around the Department of General Service's strategy for addressing the lead and other hazards that have recently been highlighted in District recreational spaces, particularly those utilizing synthetic materials, according to a release from Councilmember White's office.

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