ANU reassures community after discovering lead paint

1 June 2017

UPDATE 1 June 2017

Over recent weeks the University's maintenance teams and contractors have worked to encapsulate lead-based paint in the internal courtyard of the University Pre-School and Child Care Centre.

While the courtyard is closed, the University is taking the opportunity to carry out further maintenance and remediation work. This includes ongoing paint encapsulation, top coat painting, removal of vegetation and soil, courtyard playground remediation, sand replacement for the sand pit and landscape remediation.

The work also includes the removal of asbestos sheeting on one of the courtyard walls. While the asbestos sheeting does not currently pose any risk to children or the community, the University is removing the sheets while the courtyard is closed. This work will be carried out by licenced asbestos removalists in a sealed work environment and in accordance with the ACT Government's work, health and safety regulations. The work does not pose a risk to children and staff.

At the conclusion of the remediation work, an independent inspection will be undertaken and a clearance certificate will be obtained from an environmental hygienist before the courtyard is reopened.

All work will be carried out over weekends to ensure the safety of children and reduce the impact on the centre community. The work is expected to be completed in six weeks.

The University apologises for the inconvenience caused by the extended closure of the courtyard and appreciates the patience of parents while the issues are fixed. The safety of children and staff and the centre remains the University's focus.


UPDATE - 19 May 2017

The University has received the final laboratory report for the independent soil sampling undertaken in the courtyard of the University Preschool and Child Care Centre (UPCC).

The revised results show high lead levels in four areas and the presence of lead in five areas. The independent analysts has previously reported only three samples with high lead levels. The revised report confirms an additional sample on the western side of the courtyard against the wall.

The University has posted the updated map with the result on the ANU website. These additional findings will be managed and remediated over the coming week in line with the advice we have provided parents.

The University is working to resolve these issues as quickly and safely as we can.

The University will keep parents informed if any additional information comes to hand.


UPDATE - 18 May 2017

A play area at the University Preschool and Child Care Centre at The Australian National University (ANU) will remain closed for another week after the discovery of elevated lead levels in three soil samples from the centre's courtyard.

Independent tests on 73 soil samples at the Centre found elevated lead levels, caused by flaking lead-based paint, in only three areas against the walls in the courtyard.

No elevated lead levels were detected in high-use play areas, or on any play equipment or sandpits at the childcare centre.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said the areas had been isolated and posed no ongoing risk to children at the childcare centre.

"Remediation of the soil is underway, but the courtyard will remain closed for another week to allow a thorough environmental clean up," Professor Schmidt said.

"While tests show no elevated lead in the play area or sandpit, ANU will replace the sand and soil in order to reassure parents that the area is safe."

He said parents of children at the centre had been notified of the results.

Professor Schmidt said the ANU would only re-open the play area after a clearance certificate was obtained from an environmental hygienist.


UPDATE - 15 MAY 2017

ANU has closed a play area of the University Pre-School and Child Care Centre as a precautionary measure after finding lead-based paint on outside courtyard walls at the centre.

While the University advised last week that it believed there were no areas of concern at the Centre, on the weekend ANU maintenance staff removed hedges in the courtyard to enable a more detailed inspection of the building exterior. This revealed previously unidentified areas of weathering.

Immediate remediation work has begun. To ensure no ongoing risk to children, the play area will remain closed until the remediation work is completed.

ANU has also contacted the Health Protection Service at ACT Health.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said parents of children at the centre have been notified and invited to discuss any concerns with university and health officials at 5pm on Wednesday.

"The health and safety of children at the University Preschool and Childcare Centre is our top priority and we have closed the central play area as a precaution," Professor Schmidt said.

"I fully understand as a parent whose children attended UPCC just how worrying news like this is. I can assure parents we are making every effort to ensure the children's safety and that we don't have this sort of issue ever again."

The University Preschool and Childcare Centre takes care of 117 children.

The extra inspections were carried out after lead-based paint was discovered at the neighbouring Heritage Early Childhood Centre.

An inspection of the interior of the buildings in April this year and again last week did not identify any areas of risk for children. A previous survey in 2015 identified the presence of lead based paint which did not pose risk to children.

The University has had 73 samples from the outdoor area sent for testing for levels of lead. The test results are due on Wednesday 17 May and results will be shared with parents when they are available.


9 MAY 2017

ANU and ACT Health have moved to reassure parents of children who attend the Heritage Early Childhood Centre after the discovery of elevated lead levels contained in lead-based paint in the play area of Heritage Early Childhood Centre.

The University has found elevated levels in two of the 37 samples it tested and has taken immediate remedial action to ensure the safety of children.

ANU contacted the Health Protection Service at ACT Health. Following an assessment of the site by a team of environmental and health professionals, ACT Health confirmed there was no ongoing risk of harm to children from lead exposure at the Centre.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said parents of children at the centre have been notified and invited to discuss any concerns with health officials at one of three forums being held at the University this week.

"Our priority is the health and safety of the children at the Childcare centre and everyone who works, studies and visits the ANU campus," Professor Schmidt said.

"We have taken immediate action to clean up the area and remove any risk to our community."

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly said he understands that this news will cause concern for some parents.

"Parents or guardians who are concerned may wish to talk to their usual General Practitioner about having their child's blood level tested," Dr Kelly said.

This issue came to light after a parent asked the University to check a nearby vacant building (I Block).

Paint containing lead was used in many Australian buildings, including at ANU, prior to 1970.

Lead is a naturally occurring metal found in the ground. People can be exposed to lead in the environment through food, drinking water, air, dust, soil and some consumer products, like lead-containing paint.

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