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JournalistI’m an investigative reporter who spent 18 months investigating the National Guard’s toxic armories. AMA

Dec 7th 2016 by robdaviswrites • 6 Questions • 102 Points

I spent 18 months investigating National Guard armories across the country, finding that hundreds have been contaminated by lead dust from indoor shooting ranges. Lead spread almost everywhere imaginable in armories — inspectors found lead on ice machines, refrigerators, a coffee machine, boxing bag, floors and shelves where kids’ toys were stored. Even a deli meat slicer. It contaminated offices, classrooms, assembly halls and entire HVAC systems.

Armories are a part of the fabric of America. They're community gathering halls that not only house our citizen-soldiers for monthly drill weekends but also baby showers, weddings, scout meetings, banquets and sleepovers.

Even after testing showed Oregon’s armories were grossly contaminated with lead, my reporting found that elementary school kids from an Oregon town were allowed to sleep on a floor where inspectors once found lead at levels 650 times higher than the U.S. EPA considers safe for young kids. Inspectors had just surveyed the armory the previous month, finding lead in every sample they took.

Since our story published online last Friday, we’ve already seen lawmakers in two states call for more disclosure from their state Guard units. More reporters across the country are working on stories using the thousands of pages of records we published along with my report.

You can read my article here: http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/page/toxic_lead_dust_in_national_guard_armories.html

Proof: https://i.redd.it/hhvj0ksxa12y.jpg

Update: That's a wrap. Thanks for your questions. I'll circle back around this afternoon if there are any Qs lingering. Thanks for stopping by.

Q:

Sorry, but I'm not from America. What is an armoury? My definition is simply a gun storeroom. Where does the lead originate from? Gsr?

A:

They are where National Guard soldiers store their weapons and meet for monthly drill weekends. In hundreds of towns across the country, they're also community gathering halls, rented out for weddings and other public events.


Q:

Hi Rob! In your article series, you refer to a report by the DoD Inspector General and I was wondering if that’s publicly available and you’d be willing to share it?


Q:

Thanks! Follow-up question. You also say, "The National Guard in September 2015 directed states to thoroughly inspect their armories." Where could I find out more info on that?

A:

Just uploaded the memo for you. Here you go: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3233894/ALL-STATES-Lead-Particulate-Memo-Dated-23-SEP-15.pdf


Q:

Why did you decide to cover this subject? Do you like cookies? If so, what is your favorite type?

A:

A colleague requested and received an inspection in an Oregon armory that showed that lead had engulfed the building. It specifically warned military leaders to keep the public out. They didn't. We wanted to know how common that was.

Toll House chocolate chip, all the way.


Q:

Why did you decide to cover this subject? Do you like cookies? If so, what is your favorite type?

A:

Alright folks, that's a wrap. Thanks for your questions. I'll circle back around this afternoon if there are any Qs lingering. Thanks for stopping by.


Q:

Is there statistical proof that people are getting sick from this? Lead related illnesses that can be found higher in populations that spend more time at armories?

A:

I found sick people who worked in a former armory in Helena, Montana, which was contaminated. Two had blood lead levels that crept above average the longer they worked in the building; two had blood lead levels that would be considered elevated. At the level in one of them, a child would lose ~6 IQ points.

In general, there's not much statistical analysis to be had comparing the armory- and non-armory-going populations. The state health officials I spoke with generally had never considered armories to be a potential exposure vector for the lead poisoning cases they investigate. They added questions to their questionnaires as a result, which is great. But at this point, I suspect it's a little late for that to have much impact, presuming that the Oregon Guard lives up to its commitment to keep these buildings clean.

In troops, blood testing of Guardsmen and Guardswomen in Oregon was haphazard and the Pentagon doesn't track lead poisonings in troops in a centralized way. The Oregon Guard tested the blood of just six soldiers in 2014 (vs. 6000 in the Oregon Guard). They tested 173 last year; the highest blood lead level was 4 ug/dl, just under the level considered elevated. Still, even that is enough to steal IQ points from a young child.