Sixty-nine residential college rooms were partially repainted due to hazardous levels of exposed lead over spring break. The only residential college confirmed to contain rooms that received new paint was Timothy Dwight.

Residents of the college were not informed about the repainting.

A student in Timothy Dwight College, Hillary Ryan ’15, contacted the TD operations manager after suspecting the paint that had been decaying on his windowsill for “a couple of months” might contain lead. Following an inspection by Yale’s Environmental Health Services on Feb. 27, the windowsill was found to have 15 times the lead content required for paint to be considered dangerous, a level determined by Yale EHS. Other areas of Ryan’s room, including the walls and window paneling, also contained more lead than is safe. Ryan’s room was repainted over spring break, along with 68 other undergraduate residential spaces, due to similar findings of hazardous levels of lead paint. TD residents received no notice that there had been unsafe levels of lead, or that rooms had been repainted.

“I didn’t know any rooms had been repainted,” Claire Mufson ’16, who is in TD, said upon being told about it by the News. “If there is lead in the walls, people should know about it.”

Lead paint itself is not dangerous. Buildings which were painted with lead-based paint prior to 1978 are considered safe if they are coated over with paint that does not contain lead. But when that exterior paint decays, and the lead paint underneath begins to decay as well, paint dust particles become airborne. Inhaling those particles puts people at significant risk of impeded neurological development, a risk that is even greater among women. Lead deposits are stored in the bone marrow, which produces red blood cells. In turn, lead deposits end up in the bloodstream, exposing pregnant women and their fetuses to unsafe levels of lead, even if the woman was only exposed to a small amount of lead.

Twelve TD students interviewed said they had no idea there was a lead problem in their college and were unaware of whether their rooms had been repainted.

Though University spokesman Tom Conroy said he did not know whether the University informed students that such paintwork had occurred, he noted that he was “not sure what the need would be” to inform them.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires leasing agents to tell their renters if the building they live might have lead beneath the paintwork, but that regulation only applies to “targeted housing” and child-occupied facilities built before 1978. Yale dormitories are not considered targeted housing.

Conroy said the inspections and repairs in TD were part of a University-wide strategic maintenance plan, and not only a response to Ryan’s complaint. He added that the University regularly appraises the condition of its buildings, noting that room inspections and maintenance often happen during spring break because the use of rooms over the summer months makes large-scale inspections impractical. Yale’s residential spaces are repainted, on average, every four years, with annual inspections to determine the condition of painted surfaces, he added.

But Ryan that his windowsill and many others in TD look as though they have been decaying for several years.

Mufson said the lack of clear knowledge about whether buildings contain lead paint is not only a hazard for students, but also for the maintenance workers who are tasked with making repairs. She said that when a maintenance worker came to replace her smoke detector, drilling holes into the ceiling, he was not wearing protective equipment that would have limited exposure to what she said could have been unsafe levels of lead particles in the paint.

“They ought to know for their own health that there may be lead paint there,” Mufson said.

TD Master Jeffrey Brenzel declined to comment because he felt others could speak better to the situation.

The State of Connecticut and City of New Haven define lead-based paint as paint containing more than 0.5 percent lead.

  • aaleli

    Unless they were eating the paint, I don’t see how this rises to a crisis level.

    • merope

      Well, let’s see if anything in the article suggests it might
      be serious:

      “But when that exterior paint decays, and the lead paint underneath begins to decay as well, paint dust particles become airborne. Inhaling those particles puts people at significant risk of impeded neurological development, a risk that is even greater among women. Lead deposits are stored in the bone marrow, which produces red blood cells. In turn, lead deposits end up in the bloodstream, exposing pregnant women and their fetuses to unsafe levels of lead, even if the woman was only exposed to a small amount of lead.”

      And:

      “But Ryan that his windowsill and many others in TD look as though they have been decaying for several years.”

      That doesn’t sound serious to you?

      • td2016

        That’s clearly the route the YDN wants your mind to follow. Too bad there’s not anything in this article to actually support the insinuations. Are you an expert competent to connect the Wikipedia-style alarmist generalities with the specifics of that windowsill? Is Ryan? Is the YDN staff? I sure am not. But, unlike the people associated with this article, I DON’T PRETEND TO BE. But I will note my wholly inexpert opinion that exterior windowsills probably took more than their normal beating during this winter, and the corresponding windows probably didn’t get opened as much as they normally do with the weather in New Haven over the past few months during which Ryan’s sill is said to have degraded. And as far as the painters’ health and safety are concerned, somehow I imagine in my non-expertise fog that this is not the first time Yale painters have had to deal with old lead paint, and they probably know how to handle it. Just a thought.

        I don’t WANT to have all these specious, tendentious YDN “narratives” floating in the Yale discussion community, like rat turds in the soup. I would prefer a newspaper that does the old fashioned thing by reporting adequately sourced facts and informed judgments. Not predetermined, ignorant “narratives.” Leave that kind of thing to Rolling Stone and the like.

        The only significant thing in this article is the gratifying news that Yale maintenance people took immediate action to remediate the situation once they knew about it. It’s important to me to know they care and are careful. That can’t be said of YDN reporters and editors.

        As for the rest of this article, I say to hell with it.

      • aaleli

        It’s crap.

      • JRose

        Wow great, I now know how lead paint can be dangerous in certain circumstances. What I want to know is if the lead paint in TD reached those levels.

        If only there existed some group on campus that could *investigate* this issue as it applies in these specific cases and *report* their findings in some type of school-wide publication, like a *newspaper* perhaps.

  • td2016

    This article has many key elements generally characteristic of current YDN reporting: Exaggeration, pointless negativity, hostility, paranoia, hysteria and a complete failure to interview appropriate people and ask obvious follow up questions. In other words, it’s really bad journalism.

    The key sentence: “Lead paint itself is not dangerous.” There is no evidence reported here that the “decaying” of the paint had reached the point of any danger at all IN THIS CASE. That there was enough lead to merit remediation under general university policies is not that. And there is absolutely NOTHING here about any other room beyond the most basic generalities. ALL of the alarmist data is abstract and unsourced, with nothing done to connect the abstraction meaningfully to the specifics of this article. For the YDN to treat Ryan or Mufson as that “connection” by treating them as knowledgable in these matters (as it implicitly does) without so much as a hint of a credential is grotesquely bad journalism.

    Was OSHA contacted? How about the painters? How about their bosses? Or their union? How about someone in the City health department or the Yale School of Public Health or any such institution who might know about lead paint? Was ANYONE who actually knows about these things questioned? Are there any material facts to support the entire hostile, paranoid tenor of this article? No. That would not be current YDN style.

    This article should, at most, have been a three sentence inside-the-paper job about some rooms having been painted. It really should not have appeared at all.