“Building demolitions unlock decades of poison.” This attention-grabbing headline immediately brought to mind the seemingly daily demolition of homes in Lake Oswego neighborhoods. As backhoes claw these houses to piles of rubble, lead paint is converted to a particulate dust that spreads to neighboring homes, an unwelcome and dangerous presence which lingers for decades.
Most homes in the United States built before 1978 contain lead-based paint. Lead poisoning leads to crippling mental and physical health effects for people of all ages and for pets, but it isn’t the only health risk posed by unregulated demolition practices. Unleashing asbestos and even non-toxic dust can lead to asthma and other respiratory issues.
The question for our community is: Should redevelopment be allowed to expose residents to long-term health hazards?
The good news is that we can take steps to prevent unleashing additional decades of poison in our neighborhoods. Responsible demolition practices can effectively minimize health risks. An Annie E. Casey Foundation study (aecf.org/…/aecf-ResponsibleDemolitionBmoreCaseStudy-2011.pdf) recommended implementation of eight demolition safety protocols:
1. Effective community notification;
2. Adequate use of water to minimize dust;
3. Partial deconstruction of homes to remove components with high amounts of lead prior to demolition;
4. Fencing and other barriers;
5. Picker method for demolition as opposed to backhoe or wrecking ball;
6. Prompt, careful debris removal;
7. Replacing contaminated soil with new sod; and
8. Independent testing to measure lead dust and lead accumulation.
Please join the Lake Oswego Preservation Society in asking the city to take steps to responsibly address this critical issue that adversely affects the livability of our neighborhoods.