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Soil Contamination Identified At 18 Big Island Schools

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State officials say they are taking steps to manage the environmental hazards found at 18 Big Island schools after a study detected lead, arsenic and pesticides in the soil of the campuses.

The study began in 2017 to analyze the presence of arsenic stemming from the use of herbicides for growing sugar cane, which occurred before the schools were built, according to the Department of Education and Department of Health in a joint news release today. Lead and pesticides were added to the study because of the use of lead paint and termite treatments at the schools.

The schools found to have contaminated soil include:

  • DeSilva Elementary (arsenic and lead) 
  • Haaheo Elementary (lead)
  • Hilo High (lead) 
  • Hilo Intermediate (lead) 
  • Hilo Union Elementary (chlordane and lead)
  • Kalanianaole Elementary & Intermediate (lead) 
  • Kapiolani Elementary (arsenic, chlordane and lead)
  • Kau High & Pahala Elementary (chlordane and lead)
  • Kaumana Elementary (lead)
  • Keaau Middle (arsenic and lead)
  • Keaukaha Elementary (lead)
  • Laupahoehoe High & Elementary (lead)
  • Mountain View Elementary (lead)
  • Naalehu Elementary & Intermediate (lead)
  • Pahoa Elementary (chlordane and lead)
  • Pahoa High & Intermediate (arsenic, chlordane and lead)
  • Waiakea Intermediate (arsenic)
  • Waiakeawaena Elementary (chlordane and lead)

Exposure to lead, pesticides and arsenic can also occur around older houses and buildings. Officials advised the public to take these preventative steps:

  • Keep children from playing in the soil next to buildings.
  • Wash hands thoroughly to decrease the risk of ingestion and exposure to the hazardous materials.
  • Wash fresh produce thoroughly under clean running water.
  • Keep homes clean and dirt and dust free. Leave shoes outside.

For more information, parents can call the Hawai'i Poison Center Hotline, 800-222-1222 or check with their doctors. 

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