Armory tested for lead dust

The National Guard Armory in Columbus has indefinitely suspended rental of the facility to the public as crews work to reduce levels of lead dust in the building.

Indoor firing ranges formerly located in armories across the state left behind residue that included lead dust, which can cause health issues if inhaled frequently. Ongoing artillery maintenance at the armories also can leave traces of the dust behind.

During a routine test of lead dust levels, National Guard officials identified Columbus and 48 other Indiana armories as having possible contamination.

In this situation, contamination means that the lead dust levels are only safe by industrial standards, not residential standards, said Lt. Col. Cathy Van Bree, spokeswoman for the Indiana National Guard.

A safe industrial level of lead dust is 200 micrograms per square foot.

However, the National Guard is working to lower those levels to the residential standard, which is 40 micrograms per square foot, Van Bree said.

All events scheduled at the Columbus armory in the near future are being canceled until further notice. The space cannot be used for future rentals until the building is cleared by National Guard personnel.

“That’s why this is such a big issue and widespread,” Van Bree said. “We want to make sure we are doing the right thing and taking safety precautions.”

The Columbus armory, 2160 Arnold St., is normally rented out for sporting events and wedding receptions.

So far, two sporting events were canceled during the weekend because of the ongoing testing.

Van Bree said she did not have an estimate of how long it would take for the Columbus armory to be cleared but that officials were working as quickly as possible.

Civilians may enter the armory only for official business, such as obtaining or updating a military identification card.

Armory employees can still enter the administrative areas of the buildings to work. Special accommodations are being made for pregnant employees.

How to learn more

To learn more about lead dust contamination, reducing lead dust levels or armory closures, contact Lt. Col. Cathy Van Bree of the Indiana National Guard at 317-407-7065.

Lead health effects

Long-term exposure to lead dust in high levels can cause various health effects, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory loss
  • Pain or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Weakness

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at or 812-379-5712.