Missouri officials said work began this week on fixing chipped lead-based paint that has been falling from the state House chamber's ceiling.
State Office of Administration spokeswoman Wanda Seeney said Wednesday that workers planned to remove paint flakes from the ceiling and then repaint the area. She said the project had been planned for spring, but was moved up because the falling paint problem needed a more immediate fix. However, she said, there were no health concerns.
"By encapsulating the areas, we are eliminating potential health hazards due to lead-based paint chips falling," Seeney said.
Exposure to lead can cause various health problems. In young children and fetuses, it can lead to delays in physical and mental development, lower intelligence, shorter attention spans and more behavioral problems. Lead was used in paints and can be found in window frames, walls and exteriors of some homes built until 1978, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Missouri's House chamber is located on the Capitol's third floor. The ceiling is a couple of stories above the chamber. On Wednesday, drop cloths covered several desks used by lawmakers in a back corner of the room.
Officials said the work is to be completed by the end of December and cost no more than $50,000. Lawmakers return to the state Capitol for their annual session starting Jan. 5.
Generally, the House chamber is only used when lawmakers are in session. But last week, newly elected lawmakers used the chamber during some of their orientation sessions focusing on legislative procedure, managing office staff and other parts of the job.
Some students participating in the YMCA's "Youth in Government" program also used the chamber last week. The program places high school and eighth-grade students from across the state in state government, court and media positions so they can learn how those jobs affect public policy