St. Louis – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to remove lead-contaminated soils from 27 schools and child care centers in St. Francois County.
The agency is hosting a public meeting about the project on Monday evening in Park Hills, about 55 miles south of St. Louis.
EPA spokesman Chris Whitley said the schools and child care facilities will remain open during the cleanup, but children will need to be kept away from contaminated areas.
"In some cases that may mean no outdoor recreation," Whitley said. "In some cases that may mean outdoor recreation is allowed but in only certain parts of the property."
In contaminated areas, Whitley explained, young children playing outdoors can accidentally ingest lead when they put their fingers in their mouths, or inhale contaminated dust.
Kids under age seven are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning.
"Some of the greatest risks from lead exposure can involve developmental delays, brain damage, liver and kidney damage -- things that can be irreversible," Whitley said.
Whitley encourages families living in areas contaminated by lead mining and smelting activities, like Missouri's Old Lead Belt, to have their children's blood lead levels tested every year.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services will offer free blood lead screenings to people of all ages at Monday's meeting, which will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Mineral Area College.
For more information about lead exposures and health effects:
>> The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's web page about lead in paint, dust, and soil
>> EPA's web page about lead in air
>> EPA's list of counties that exceed national air quality standards for lead
>> EPA's web page about lead in Superfund sites
>> The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's web page on lead poisoning