Lead at 11th & Monroe park: No significant blood test results

None of the 137 people who were tested for elevated blood lead levels in Columbia Heights over the past couple of months registered above 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the standard by which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measures the effects of lead exposure.{ }

The District government began offering free blood lead testing for residents back in August, after the District Department of the Environment ordered the closure of a park at 11th and Monroe streets NW due to evidence of lead contamination. The city-maintained park and playground re-opened this week after it was cleaned and re-tested.

Two adult men who were tested had 9 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, just below the CDC guidelines for lead levels of concern, according to DDOE spokeswoman Donna Henry. No other blood test results returned anything significant.

It would be difficult if not impossible to determine whether those two men's blood lead levels were the result of exposure to the lead-contaminated construction debris discovered in the park, according to Dr. Hung K. Cheung, a former Maryland State Medical Director who specializes in environmental diseases.

"Lead is very very difficult to get rid of in the body," says Cheung. Without a prior blood lead level test for those two men by which to compare, Cheung says there would be no way to know whether their levels had become elevated due to exposure to the park. "The only thing you can really say is that the levels are below the CDC's level of concern," Cheung says.