Silliman College and Rosenfeld Hall are the latest undergraduate residences that have been confirmed as having had rooms repainted over spring break to cover decaying lead paint.
On Feb. 27, Environmental Health Services found that the paint on the windowsill of a Timothy Dwight College room contained 15 times the amount of lead that is legally considered to be safe. Over spring break, a total of 69 of Yale’s 4,500 residential rooms, including spaces in Silliman and Rosenfeld, were repainted due to similar findings. Whether or not rooms in other colleges and residential spaces have been repainted remains unclear.
“I can only confirm that Silliman, TD and Rosenfeld have been repainted due to exposed lead,” said a member of Yale Facilities, who was told not to tell anyone about the repainting and therefore asked to remain anonymous.
When asked for the number of rooms per college that had been repainted, University Spokesperson Tom Conroy said he did not have the appropriate documents. He also refused to comment on the presence of lead in colleges besides TD because he did not know the details of those cases, he said.
But Trumbull College Master Margaret Clark said no lead had been identified in her college over spring break. Pierson College Operations Manager Tanya Wiedeking acknowledged in an email that minor paint work had occurred in Pierson, but would not elaborate on the reason for the paint work.
The inspections started when Hillary Ryan ’15 asked TD’s operations manager to assess the lead content of the decaying paint on his windowsill. He said he was impressed with the speed with which his college responded to his concerns, noting that they offered to repaint it the very same day. Ryan proceeded to contact TD Master Jeffrey Brenzel and the college’s residential fellows after he received the lead testing results.
He said that while it would have been better if Brenzel had told the TD community about the lead paint discovery sooner, he is more concerned by the fact that he was the first person to inform TD College that a lead problem existed at all. He added that every TD administrator he contacted about the lead problem was surprised by the information.
Brenzel told the TD community that he first learned about the existence of decaying lead paint on March 2. He said he intended to communicate this to the college on the evening of March 24 in order to give himself time to collect more details on the case but decided to inform the TD community in the morning after seeing an article in the News about the issue.
“It took a couple of days, taking us up to [spring break], for us to get some sense of what was involved,” said Brenzel in an interview. He explained that upon hearing that lead paint might be in the College, he felt it necessary to secure copies of the testing report and understand the scale of the issue before reaching out to the TD community.
Brenzel said he was happy when he heard that all the residences at Yale College would also be inspected for decaying lead paint.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that lead paint has the potential to cause serious neurological damage when dust particles are inhaled. Though the exact level of lead paint exposure across campus is still undetermined, the CDC notes that even limited exposure can lead to serious public health problems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, leasing agents to inform renters about any lead under the paintwork in buildings built before 1978, even if the non-lead paint covering is in good condition.
Though Yale is not required to tell individuals living in their dormitories about the existence of lead paint — college dormitories are not covered by this same regulation — Ryan said that members of affected colleges should be told as a courtesy.
The lead status of the nine remaining residential colleges remain unknown. All but three residential college administrators that responded to the News’ inquiries declined to comment, referring all questions to Conroy.