Monday, April 15, 2024

Health department finds lead poisoning hazards in NHCS elementary school

The health department has found lead paint contamination in three areas at the International School at Gregory.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The health department has found lead paint contamination in three areas at the International School at Gregory.

According to New Hanover County Schools, the state conducted an investigation into possible lead poisoning hazards on Jan. 24 after the district received an anonymous complaint. The testing revealed three of the 30 surveyed areas contained lead levels above what is allowed by state law, including dust on the interior auditorium stage floor, dust on the interior gym foyer floor and dust on the interior “mental health closet” floor.

NHCS spokesperson Russell Clark clarified with Port City Daily the closet is not a seclusion room, stating it’s located inside the office of a school’s mental health employee or social worker. 

North Carolina law stipulates the standard level for lead in dust is not to exceed 10 micrograms per square foot. The stage floor had 34 micrograms, the gym floor had 23 micrograms and the mental health closet had 24,000 micrograms per square foot. 

Investigators used an X-ray fluorescence analyzer to test surfaces and took samples from dust, soil and water. Many of the 30 areas studied were the elementary school’s water fountains, of which the levels were below the maximum allowed.  

According to NHCS, the three areas remain sealed off after cleaning, repair, and repainting occurred on March 11 and 12. 

The investigation also identified areas where lead-based paint is present including: 

  • Handicapped girls bathroom sink 
  • Art room closet door casing, door jamb, door stop
  • Cafeteria door casing
  • Lower doorway casing blocks
  • Gym entry ceiling, entry walls, entry crown molding, entry under star doorway, and ceiling 
  • 2206 closet door casing and 2206 closet door 
  • 2206 closet metal wall
  • Cafeteria window casing (intact)
  • Boys bathroom window casing (intact)

According to the New Hanover County Health & Human Services notice, areas where lead-based paint is intact should be maintained intact to prevent future hazards.

The International School at Gregory was built between 1933 and 1954; according to the health department’s findings, the property is considered to be in “fair condition.”

Upon receipt of the health department notice — which the district marked as received on March 1 — NHCS was allowed 10 days to provide the names and addresses of parents with children less than 6 years old that have attended the school in the last six months.

State law requires remediation of lead poisoning hazards only if a child has a blood lead content of 10 micrograms per deciliter or greater, though the department recommends cleanup occur even without this stipulation. 

This week, the health department will reach out to the parents and guardians of students under the age of 6 who were in the building during the past six months. It will advise those children to have their blood tested, which HHS will offer for free. In addition, any parent or guardian of a child who attends Gregory can talk to their child’s healthcare provider about testing for lead in the blood.  

Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at 

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