After dodging questions, city confirms several workers at shooting range have elevated lead levels
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health officials launched an investigation Wednesday after reports workers had been exposed to lead at Koko Head Shooting Complex.
Sources confirm more than half of the range’s 12 staff members have elevated levels of lead in their blood.
On Wednesday afternoon, the city acknowledged some of its employees did have lead levels “above the normal range.” It’s unclear when the city first became aware that its staff was possibly being exposed to lead at the shooting range.
However, on Sept. 16 parks officials abruptly closed the complex two weeks ahead of a planned berm renovation project.
A news release issued by the city cited a staffing shortage.
The situation has community members incensed.
“I find this to be blatantly dangerous and irresponsible,” said Greg Knudsen, a member of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board. “Why aren’t people warned that there is at least the potential for a serious health risk?”
Knudsen has had longstanding concerns about the possibility of lead contamination at the range.
Exposure can cause a variety of serious heath issues and harm the brain and central nervous system.
The issue was discussed in Tuesday night’s neighborhood board meeting.
“This (is something) the city has intentionally ignored because I have been asking since mid-August and have gotten no response,” Knudsen said.
City Department of Parks and Recreation Director Laura Thielen provided HNN with this statement Wednesday:
“Prior to the planned closure that is currently in effect, the Department of Parks and Recreation learned of concerns regarding an employee at the Koko Head Shooting Complex with elevated lead levels and subsequently requested that all full-time and part-time employees get tested.
According to OSHA, the acceptable blood level is 40 micrograms/100 grams of whole blood. While the blood tests of some of our employees did show lead levels above what would be considered the normal range, the tests were well below the OSHA-established levels of concern and consequently did not trigger the duty to report exposure under OSHA.
Out of an abundance of caution, we temporarily relocated the employees from the area, and the City’s Department of Emergency Services sent letters to each employee recommending that they seek additional health advice from their individual health care providers. The City also moved up the previously planned closure for renovation work so that the City could contract an environmental consultant to test and analyze the site to ensure the safety of the employees.”
HNN first started asking the city about the issue on Sept. 16 after getting a tip about a range employee reportedly having elevated levels of lead in their blood.
Since then, HNN has made repeated requests to the city for information on the issue.
Wednesday is the first day officials answered any of questions.
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