NYU professor says state jumped the gun reopening lead-contaminated playground in Wappingers Falls
An environmental clinical science professor at New York University who helped the Wall Street Journal take lead readings at a playground in Wappingers Falls for an investigative report is now speaking to News 12 about the so-called “toxic park” – and why he says it’s still not safe for kids.
“To my surprise, the levels were higher than I anticipated,” said Dr. Jack Caravanos.
Caravanos was part of a team of experts that did tests for the journal in a report that found old lead telecommunication wires are contaminating more than 2,000 sites nationwide, including Temple Park.
“We took almost 200 readings in that site. The highest level we got was 1634, which was significant,” said Caravanos.
The park shut down after the journal’s report, but the state found it was safe to reopen in July after 25 spots on and near the playground, below the wires, were tested by the Department of Health for lead.
Their readings showed average levels of 154 parts per million, but the highest was more than twice that.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says no amounts of lead in blood levels are okay for kids. The Enviornmental Protection Agency, however, has set acceptable levels for soil in children's play areas of up to 400 ppm.
“I took more samples than New York state did,” said Caravanos. “I still believe that there are areas that need to be further assessed.”
Caravanos says high levels of lead were also found at a football field near the park. He says parents should consider avoiding the area with their kids or at minimum, wash or wipe anything that touches the ground.
“Ultimately, it needs to be removed,” said Caravanos. “Until the site is better assessed by the state and hot spots are identified and some remediation may occur, my best advice is to maybe think about going to another park if you can, or if you insist on using that park to be very cautious with hand to mouth activity.”
A representative for the state says the site tested below federal safety standards for lead in their tests.
A New York state Department of Health spokesperson released the following statement:
“Lead contamination presents significant health risks and the State is committed to protecting all New Yorkers – especially children – from lead poisoning. In response to reports of contaminated soil, the State conducted a comprehensive review of dozens of soil samples, analyzed them at the State's world-renowned Wadsworth Laboratory, and determined all samples from the children's play area were fully compliant with federal lead safety standards. We will continue aggressively working to protect public health.
News 12's calls to the Wappingers Falls mayor for comment have not been returned.