U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., filed a bipartisan amendment in response to a recent report about lead poisonings and dangerous lead levels in housing on U.S. Army installations that is potentially endangering military families.
The amendment filed Wednesday to legislation currently under consideration on the Senate floor would require the Government Accountability Office to report on the monitoring and remediation of lead and verifiable compliance with lead exposure limits in military housing. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Rand Paul, R-Ky., David Perdue, R-Ga., and Mark Warner, D-Va., cosponsored the amendment.
“The recent reports regarding lead poisoning in some military housing units is disturbing and must absolutely be corrected,” said Isakson, who serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Our military families sacrifice greatly in service to our country, and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to ensure their safety, especially in homes the military provides for them. In addition to the information we’ve requested from the U.S. Army to ensure proper treatment, remediation and accountability plans moving forward, I’ve offered this amendment to learn as much as we can about this dangerous exposure to prevent future poisoning and protect our military families going forward.”
“Our servicemembers and their families sacrifice so much to serve this nation and we need to make sure we’re doing all that we can to keep them safe both at home and abroad—so reports that we’re falling short of that commitment by exposing children on Army bases to lead poisoning need to be addressed immediately,” said McCaskill, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “This bipartisan effort is an important first step to help right this wrong.”
“I am very proud to support this amendment to require the monitoring of lead levels in military housing,” said Gillibrand, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “Exposure to lead can be extremely harmful, especially to children, and Congress has a responsibility to do what it can to ensure that lead contamination in military housing is found and removed. Our service members and their families make incredible sacrifices for our country, and they should be able to have the peace of mind that their homes are safe and lead-free.”
“Military families should not be in danger in their homes on military bases,” said Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The recent reports on lead poisonings are concerning, but we still don’t know the full extent of the problem. Last week I asked the Army for a briefing on the reports, and this amendment will help us understand the scope of the problem to monitor and track efforts to eliminate this risk to military families.”
“It is unacceptable when those who risk everything to serve our nation cannot feel safe in their own homes on base. Our amendment would ensure accountability from the Department of Defense regarding its efforts to address dangerous lead exposure in military housing and help guarantee an effective response, while also providing greater peace of mind to our military families,” said Paul.
“Families are the backbone of the military. We owe it to our men and women in uniform to ensure their families have access to safe and comfortable housing on base, especially here on American soil,” said Perdue, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I am concerned with the recent reports that military families and children have been exposed to dangerous lead conditions at Fort Benning and other installations across the country. We are actively working to get more information from the Army, so we can chart the best path forward and improve the safety of on-base housing at Fort Benning and beyond.”
“Servicemembers and their families should feel safe when living in on-base housing. I’m proud to support this critical amendment that will ensure our troops are provided with the safe living environment that they deserve,” said Warner.
While the sale of lead-based paint is banned in the United States, many walls in older homes still have the old paint, which can become dangerous to children as it peels and chips. Young children are most susceptible to lead poisoning, which can cause long-term developmental delays.
A Reuters report highlights cases of lead poisoning at on-base housing at Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Knox, Ky., Fort Polk, La., Fort Bliss, Texas, Fort Hood, Texas, and a 2015 Department of Defense Inspector General report that found lead paint hazards at Fort Belvoir, Va.
On Aug. 17, Sens. Isakson, Kaine, Perdue and Warner sent a letter to U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper raising concerns over the report on lead. Further, they asked the secretary to provide a detailed briefing about what the Army is doing to keep military families safe and what the Army needs from Congress to address this problem.