Two-thirds of schools at risk of lead contamination

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Education Minister Yvette Berry

FURTHER Canberra schools suspected of containing toxic lead paint and other hazardous materials will not be inspected.

The direction comes after a fourth school since June last year was found to have either lead dust or lead paint contamination in their buildings.

A principal at Richardson Primary School revealed to parents in a letter before the start of the new school year that toxic lead particles had been discovered in its heating ducts.

However, an ACT government department admitted the presence of lead paint at the school in Canberra’s south was known before routine summer maintenance work was undertaken.

“Licensed assessors, Robsons, conducted tests to check if lead dust has flowed from the heating system to other areas in the school,” the department said in a statement to CityNews.

“These tests have confirmed that all the spaces are safe to occupy.

“No classrooms at Richardson Primary School are closed due to lead dust.”

Possibly 71 public schools – about two-thirds in the ACT – are at some risk.

The Education Directorate said schools built after 1992 “have lead paint or other hazardous materials in them”.

“The Education Directorate is aware of the presence of lead paint and other hazardous materials across our school network – we don’t need to order inspections because we know where the hazardous materials are,” the department said.

Those schools have already been placed on a hazardous materials register, which is a guide for maintenance workers to know of any potentially hazardous materials.

The Education Directorate has also formed a “dedicated taskforce” that are supported by an independent panel of academics, health officials and work safety experts to carry out the work to keep schools safe.

The panel is providing guidance on the implementation of the election commitment to spend $15 million to fast-track the removal of hazardous materials in public schools.

Minister for Education Yvette Berry said the ACT government has committed $114 million over the next four years to upgrade school buildings to keep them “comfortable and safe” that includes the funding to accelerate the removal of hazardous materials.

“I’d like to reassure families that the safety of our students, staff and the community is the highest priority,” Ms Berry said.

“The government takes the advice of experts when it comes to managing things like lead paint and asbestos.

“That’s why in December we formed an expert panel to provide advice and guidance.”

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