Children sick from lead poisoning at Army’s fifth largest base

FORT BENNING, Ga. (Aug. 14, 2018) – The Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning, Georgia, hosted an open house to celebrate the grand opening of Milton E. Long Library Aug. 14. The library, in Bldg. 2783, 6529 Eckel Ave., opens with more than $4 million in renovation of the 25,000-square foot Long Hall. This event includes refreshments and activities for Fort Benning Families. (U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Children are reportedly being poisoned by lead at the Army’s fifth-largest base, thanks to aging on-post family housing and infrastructure in dire need of overhaul- and the Army has been looking the other way.

Georgia’s Fort Benning on-post housing boasts 4,001 family homes, with 2,274 of them being contaminated with lead paint. Over time, the paint peels, chips or turns to dust, creating a toxic situation that children are particularly susceptible to.

One such minor was John “JC” Cale Brown Jr, the son of Colonel John Cale Brown, a former battalion commander at Fort Benning.

Required to live on post due to his position, Brown and his family took residence in an 80-year-old home under the management of Villages of Benning, a joint venture between private companies and the US military.

After JC began exhibiting bizarre symptoms and developmental issues, the family took him to a pediatrician, where it was discovered that his blood contained high levels of lead. Upon inspection of the home, it was discovered the structure contained 113 spots where lead paint remained (as it had been banned since 1978), leading to a $26,150 in lead abatement and evacuation of the structure.

Unfortunately, the damage was already done. To this day, JC is incapable of living like a normal kid, stricken with stunted brain development and other disorders.

“I’m sad that my son lost his future,” JC’s mother, Darlena Brown, said. “It was because of where we were that this happened.”

According to Reuters, many servicemembers express their fear about high lead levels in on-post housing, but cannot speak out in fear of damaging their careers.

In addition to housing, other locations -such as JC’s special education classrooms at Dexter Elementary School- tested high for lead in 2013. In some water taps on post, the lead level was higher than that found in Flint, Michigan.

By 2014, the Brown family sued Benning’s housing contractors, who denied any wrongdoing and contested the suit. Earlier this year, the lawsuit was settled, with preconditions by the contractors including demands to stop talking to Reuters or mentioning the dispute publicly.

Benning isn’t the only place with high lead concentrations- Kentucky’s Fort Knox, paint chips recovered from a porch was found to contain 50% lead. At West Point in New York, chips were also found to have high concentrations.

Now working for the White House on the National Security Council, Colonel Brown is still warning the Army in regards to their failures to protect children and other family members from lead exposure.

The only question is, will the Army listen?

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