Lead Paint in Residences Complicates Faculty Housing Process

Because of lead paint in Pemberton Cottage, Brian Faulk, Instructor in Chemistry, was relocated to Draper Hall when his wife was pregnant with their newborn son. Faulk is one of many faculty members who have been required to move out of certain dorms and campus houses on account of the effects of lead for children under the age of six. Sixty-seven out of 180 faculty residences are currently deemed lead-safe or lead-free, according to Larry Muench, Director of Facilities at Andover. The other 113, built before the 1978 ban of lead paint, are considered unsafe for children under the age of six to live in. This shortcoming of some houses has posed challenges in deciding faculty housing for the upcoming year. “The effects of over-exposure to lead can include hearing, speech, learning, developmental and neurological problems. Young children with their rapidly developing central nervous system are at a much greater risk, and for that reason the regulation is aimed at protecting that group,” wrote Muench in an email to The Phillipian. Young children are particularly at risk of coming into close contact with lead paint due to their teething habits. In winter, faculty members begin the process of bidding on residences to live in for the upcoming school year based on a point system. Faculty members with more teaching years, age and years of dormitory service have priority in the choice. However, exceptions are made for faculty with a child under the age of six. Faculty without a child under age of six cannot outbid a person who does have a child under the age of six for a lead-safe house, according to Patrick Farrell, Dean of Faculty. According to Faulk, however, there is often a lack of movement of faculty families from lead-containing houses and lead-free houses on campus. Faulk said that, often, families with children over the age of six remain in the lead-free housing, making it difficult for families with children under the age of the six to easily find housing. “The school quite often has a difficult decision to make, as far as whether or not to spend the money to make a residence lead-free. That’s an expensive undertaking because of the fact that, in theory, we have plenty of lead-free housing. It becomes a difficult thing for the Board of Trustees to rationalize, to say, ‘Oh, we’ll spend the money to make this residence lead-free,’” Farrell said. In order for a house to earn the lead-safe certification, a certified professional must comb the house and eliminate any materials containing lead, including any surfaces that are painted with lead paint. “Since the work touches so many areas in the house, the job is usually very labor-intensive, and one must use a certified professional throughout the process,” said Muench.