- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

WYOMING, Mich. (AP) - Dangerous lead levels went unchecked at Michigan National Guard armories that were polluted due to their use as indoor firing ranges, according to documents.

The ranges closed, but Mlive.com reported (https://bit.ly/2hcTqn1 ) the mess they left polluted parts of facilities. Testing in 2014 and 2015 showed lead dust levels above recommended levels, including at the Grand Valley Armory in the western Michigan community of Wyoming.

The news organization said lead dust was allowed to accumulate in Guard armories across Michigan for decades. Records obtained by its sister organization The Oregonian/OregonLive show officials delayed action by at least a year to deal with a probe.

Michigan National Guard spokeswoman Maj. Corissa Barton said she “can’t speculate on what decision was made in the past.” She said the issue has since been addressed more seriously.

In January 2016, Michigan officials identified 28 armories in need of action and sent out a news release that laid out their plans, which included temporary armory closures, limiting public access and posting signs. According to Barton, the actions were based on where the lead was found and where community events could be held.

“You want to take the highest level of mitigation possible to ensure you’re not putting anyone at risk until you have a full grasp of what the situation is,” she said. “Better to be careful than to let everyone in and put them in harm’s way.”

Barton said all of the armories are now open after “extensive efforts” to clean up areas accessed by the public. She said the Michigan National Guard’s effort to remove lead is part of a push to update the organization and its facilities.

According to Barton, the majority of the Michigan National Guard’s full-time soldiers had their blood tested this year for lead, and all of the tests came back negative.

Michigan Environmental Council Health Policy Director Tina Reynolds said she believes every pathway to potential lead exposure should be looked at. She said the most common pathways of child lead exposure are lead paint in homes and at playgrounds.

Any amounts of lead are harmful to children, she said, and a small amount of dust from an armory or tracked home by a parent could expose a child to higher-than-recommended lead levels.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human services declined to comment on the issue. However, the department said its Healthy Homes Section only regulates or provides assistance to child-occupied buildings like homes and day cares.

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, https://www.mlive.com

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