Four U.S. senators on Friday urged the Army to detail the steps it is taking to safeguard children from lead poisoning, citing a Reuters investigation into hazards on military bases.
“We write to you today concerned about recent reports of lead poisoning at a number of Army installations,” the senators wrote. “The health and safety of our servicemembers and their families are of the utmost importance.”
The letter, written by Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia, along with Republican Senators David Perdue and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, came a day after Reuters reported that more than 1,000 young children tested at military clinics had elevated lead levels between 2011 and 2016.
The Reuters investigation also found that several military bases had not been reporting children's blood test results to state health departments, violating state laws and creating public health blind spots. The Army said those test results are now being reported.
The lawmakers requested a detailed briefing on the Army’s strategy to keep military families safe and proposals for potential action from Congress.
“The Army’s most valuable asset is its soldiers and their families, and we honor the sacrifices they make to serve our nation,” said Army spokeswoman Colonel Kathleen Turner.
“We are committed to providing a safe and secure environment on all of our installations, and to providing the highest quality of care to our service members, their families and all those entrusted to our care.”
As part of its examination, Reuters provided lead testing to families at several U.S. bases, finding lead paint hazards in Georgia, Texas, Kentucky and New York.
Senators Perdue and Isakson represent Georgia, where Reuters tested five older homes at Fort Benning and found hazards in all five. Senators Kaine and Warner represent Virginia, where a 2015 Defense Department’s Inspector General report had discovered lead hazards at Fort Belvoir.
"We ask that you provide our offices with a detailed briefing as soon as possible outlining the immediate and long-term mitigation strategy to keep military families safe, provide medical treatment for those potentially or previously affected, make long-lasting repairs, and finally, provide legislative proposals or guidance on legislation needed to hold maintenance contractors accountable," the senators concluded in their letter.
Reporting by Andrea Januta and Joshua Schneyer; Editing by Ronnie Greene