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Durham Officials Testing For Possible Lead Contamination At Playgrounds In Five Parks

Source: NC Newsline

Just months after 35 Durham park areas were fenced off due to possible lead contamination, Durham Parks and Recreation is temporarily closing 5 playgrounds to conduct further tests for lead contamination. 

Northgate, Walltown, East End, East Durham and Lyon Park are the latest Durham sites being tested following Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated recommendations for safe lead levels in January.

According to ABC 11, the EPA’s new guidelines want lead levels in soil where children play to be less than 200 parts per million (ppm), instead of the previous 400 ppm. 

Officials have prioritized Durham due to its long history of environmental issues. According to NC Newsline, from the early 1900s to 1940, some present day parks were home to city-owned incinerators, which burned lead-containing material. 

The city-owned incinerators are in historically Black neighborhoods and in former redlined areas where environmental racism and health disparities persist. Although Northgate didn’t have an incinerator, historical records show debris from those operations was dumped there, NC Newsline reports

A 2022 study by Enikoe Bihari, a Duke graduate student, found that the Durham parks previously home to trash incinerators or used ash as infill between 1900 and 1950, had lead concentrations higher than EPA standards.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, lead is a neurotoxin, that with chronic exposure, can cause permanent neurological and brain damage in children. Children are most commonly exposed to lead from lead paint in older homes, toys, and other sources. 

In addition, children can be exposed to lead in soil by swallowing or breathing it in. Soil particles can also be brought indoors on shoes, clothing, or pets, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Environmental Protection Agency and the CDC stress that there is no safe level of lead exposure for humans.

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