Former Lead Factory Sites Pose Health Risks to Children

EPASeveral states are undergoing investigations and cleanup efforts at sites which were identified to be former lead factories. Some of these sites are located in what are now residential neighborhoods. Under direction of the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, the sites are being tested, monitored, or cleaned up in order to assess and reduce risk to the public, especially where children are concerned.

Known as the EPA’s national smelter initiative, the issue was first brought to light through an investigation by USA TODAY. The paper examined public documents and found 464 potentially toxic sites in the United States which had not been investigated thoroughly by the EPA. The alarming facts that the newspaper found include the potential harm to thousands of families now living on the former site of plants which produced toxic waste.

Lead poisoning can be extremely harmful to children, who are more likely to be playing in the dirt of a former plant site. Even small amounts of lead or lead dust, when ingested by children, can cause severe brain injury, including attention disorders and additional health and cognitive issues.

The investigation is ongoing. Some of the sites still need further investigation while some have cleanup projects already scheduled. Here is a sampling of some of the sites uncovered by the newspaper:

  • Several Detroit neighborhoods, which were earlier declared clear by the State of Michigan, are now on the EPA list for further investigation spurred by hazards found on a previous factory property.
  • There are at least six sites in New York City which have been identified as areas of concern with at least six others which still require investigation.
  • Soil tests are being performed on soil from residential neighborhoods in New Jersey, Maryland and Georgia.
  • Investigators discovered severe arsenic and led contamination in a yard in Portland, Oregon, with other homes in the neighborhood also likely to be effected.
  • In Ohio, three sites will likely be cleaned up, while several other sites show risk and are to be further investigated.
  • Two sites in Chicago are to be cleaned up, with eight others set for additional studies.

Previously, the EPA provided $1.26 million to perform cleanup of homes in Edison, New Jersey and for cleanup efforts at a condominium complex in Newark, New Jersey. The funds will also be used to clean up lead from an old smelter site in New York City which is now the site of a park and some athletic fields.