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Independent testing confirms lead in paint flakes from High Street burn

IUPUI professor Gabe Filippelli

(Pat Beane/WTIU)

Independent testing of paint flakes from last Friday’s controlled burn of a house on South High Street by the Bloomington Fire Department confirmed high concentrations of lead.

Gabe Filippelli, a professor at IUPUI and executive director of the Environmental Resilience Institute,  tested a number of paint samples gathered by Matt Murphy, who lives in the neighborhood adjacent to the burn site, for lead. 

“I thought it was an overreaction before I did the analysis,” Filippelli said. “And then I did the analysis, and it was very clearly not an overreaction.” 

The city has contracted with an Indianapolis-based company to vacuum up paint flakes and ash from the affected areas.  

Read: City contracts with company to clean up toxic debris from High St. controlled burn

Filippelli says that should be adequate. 

“Assuming that background levels aren’t that high in houses after the clean up, then I suspect in 10 years it’ll be sort of a forgotten tale,” he said. 

Filippelli said along with vacuuming up the chips, mother nature should take care of the rest. Rain will wash tainted dust and finer particles into the soil, where they will be diluted. 

But Filippelli cautioned people to treat every piece of paint they find on their property as potentially hazardous material. 

“Kids are weird, they’ll chew things,” Filippelli said. “And for a toddler chewing a lead chip can cause lead poisoning. And lead poisoning is, if it’s just one incident, maybe not catastrophic. But lead poisoning is permanent.”

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