UW-Madison updates on lead testing

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Contact: Dr. William Kinsey, (608) 890-1696, wjkinsey@uhs.wisc.edu

UW-Madison is taking steps to manage lead contamination issues created by two painting projects. Between May and September, repainting, including paint removal, was conducted by contractors on emergency stairwells at Agricultural Hall and Bascom Hall.

It is believed that lead contamination escaped the work enclosure at Agricultural Hall, affecting that building and outdoor spaces at the neighboring Preschool Lab at the School of Human Ecology. Testing in Bascom Hall also showed elevated levels of lead in some areas directly adjacent to the work area.

“We’re addressing this situation quickly and aggressively,” says Dr. William Kinsey, UW–Madison Chief Medical Officer. “We’ll continue to provide updates to all groups that may have been affected.”

To date, the university has shared information directly with students, employees, parents of preschool children, both electronically and at in-person meetings.

University officials are conducting an investigation of how and why the contamination occurred, but don’t yet have information to share about potential causes.

Below are updates on the three affected areas:

Preschool Lab at Nancy Nicholas Hall: At the Preschool Lab, interior testing revealed undetectable levels of lead. Environmental test results for the preschool playground showed lead levels to be well below state standards.

Following the testing, the playground and adjacent outdoor areas, including the 3rd floor terrace, were thoroughly cleaned, retested and reopened.

However, out of an abundance of caution, UW is encouraging parents to have their Preschool Lab child(ren) undergo a Venous Lead Level test.

Preschoolers can be tested by their health care provider and the cost will be reimbursed by the university. Alternatively, on-site testing is being coordinated through University Health Services (UHS) for next week.

Parents and staff have received multiple communications on these issues, including an in-person informational meeting Tuesday.

Ag Hall employees: To date, test results have shown areas in the northeast section of the building have elevated levels of lead contamination.

UW–Madison is relocating employees whose offices are situated in the east wing along the north and east sides of the building to alternate work spaces, including the option to telecommute.

Out of an abundance of caution, all of Ag Hall will be cleaned using a state-approved, certified cleaning company. Cleaning began at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.

Women who work in Ag Hall who are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, and/or are nursing, or people with other health concerns, should talk to their supervisor about an alternate work location.

CALS Human Resources has shared information to affected employees and held an in-person information session Tuesday.

Bascom Hall employees: Environmental testing shows elevated lead levels in areas adjacent to the work area. Remediation and cleaning will begin Wednesday, Oct. 4.

UW–Madison is relocating employees whose offices are situated in the north and central wings of the building with windows facing the work site, including the option to telecommute.

Women who work in Bascom Hall who are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, and/or are nursing, or people with other health concerns, should talk to their supervisor about an alternate work location.

Information has been shared to building employees and updates will be provided as they are available. An in-person information session is also being scheduled.

Additional employee info:

Per recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), regular hand and face washing — especially before meals — can lower the possibility that lead on the skin is accidentally swallowed while eating. All employees are encouraged to wash their hands and face before eating and before leaving the workplace.

If desired, employees can make an appointment—at no cost—with University Health Services Occupational Medicine for a blood lead level test. If you choose to see your own health care provider for this test, please tell your health care provider to bill the visit through Worker’s Compensation.

If you choose to have a blood lead level test, please visit the Risk Management website to complete three forms: Employee’s Work Injury and Illness Report, Employer’s Report of Injury, and Supervisor’s Work Injury and Illness Report. Please contact your HR manager with questions regarding these forms and the process.

Questions about employee medical testing can be directed to UHS Occupational Medicine at 608-265-5610. For more information about this process, visit https://www.uhs.wisc.edu/eoh/lead or email health@wisc.edu.

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