Lead and mold confirmed at Hough Elementary in Vancouver

The district says it is working with an environmental services company to address the problem

VANCOUVER — Parents of students at Hough Elementary School in Vancouver are being warned that their children may have been exposed to unsafe levels of lead contamination.

Hough Elementary School in downtown Vancouver is one of the district’s oldest buildings. Photo courtesy Vancouver Public Schools
Hough Elementary School in downtown Vancouver is one of the district’s oldest buildings. Photo courtesy Vancouver Public Schools

In a letter to parents this week the district says Clark County Public Health visited Hough on May 2 to respond to a citizen complaint about mold. The presence of mold was confirmed, and VPS says they are working to address that situation. During their visit, staff members also noted chipping paint around windows in several classrooms. Given the age of the building, which was built in 1941, they scheduled a return visit to test for lead.

Public Health returned to Hough on May 9 and tested the paint chips, confirming the presence of lead. The school district says they are working with an environmental services company to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to determine the actual amount of lead present. Those results will be communicated to parents, along with what steps will be taken to mitigate the risk.

“Exposure to lead can result in elevated levels of lead in the bloodstream,” the District’s letter reads. “Lead-based paint and its dust, most commonly found in buildings and homes constructed before 1978, are the biggest sources of lead exposure in children. Children younger than six years are at the highest risk because theyoften put their hands and objects in their mouths.”

“Additional testing covering a larger area of the school will be done this weekend,” said District Spokesperson Pat Nuzzo in an e-mail to ClarkCountyToday.com. “We are working with a consultant to do this; a contract has not been finalized.

“The district is committed to communicate the results when they are available.”

A 2017 building bond approved by Vancouver voters will rebuild seven of the district’s aging schools, though Hough is not on that list. The campus is set to see a number of upgrades, including replacing the ancient boilers and replacing windows.

To learn more about lead and lead exposure, visit the CDC’s website on the subject.

The district’s full letter to parents is below:

Dear Hough families,

The purpose of this message is to notify you of possible lead exposure at Hough Elementary School. Clark County Public Health visited Hough on May 2 to respond to a citizen complaint about mold. Public Health identified the presence of mold, and Vancouver Public Schools is addressing this issue.

During the May 2 visit, Public Health staff members also noticed chipping paint around classroom windows and, given the age of the building, were concerned about the possibility of lead-based paint.

A lead specialist from Public Health returned May 9 and performed a screening test. The test indicated the presence of lead in the chipping paint around the windows. Vancouver Public Schools is working with an environmental services company to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to determine the amount of lead present. Results will be communicated with families and staff members as soon as they are available. Next steps also will be communicated as soon as the results are known.

Exposure to lead can result in elevated levels of lead in the bloodstream. Lead-based paint and its dust, most commonly found in buildings and homes constructed before 1978, are the biggest sources of lead exposure in children. Children younger than six years are at the highest risk because they often put their hands and objects in their mouths.

If you have concerns about lead exposure, talk to your health care provider. If you have questions, contact Public Health at 564.397.8182.

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