The Environmental Protection Agency is re-examining more than 460 former lead factory sites across the USA for health hazards left by toxic fallout onto soil in nearby neighborhoods. The massive effort comes as a result of a USA Today investigation. It involves locations in dozens of states and has already identified several sites needing further investigation and some so dangerous that cleanups are being scheduled. For example, in Portland, Ore., the yard at one home is so contaminated with lead and arsenic that 20 tons of soil will need to be removed. Additionally, three nearby homes also likely will need similar cleanups. There are also problems in a number of other states, including New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Maryland.
In April, USA Today’s “Ghost Factories” investigation revealed that the EPA was given a list in 2001 of forgotten lead factories that primarily operated and shut down during the 1930s through the 1960s, before the era of environmental regulation. The EPA was warned by the researcher who compiled the list from old industry directories that many of the long-closed factories had likely contaminated the soil in surrounding properties with a toxic layer of lead fallout from their smokestacks, thereby creating a risk to children playing in the dirt and putting dusty hands and toys in their mouths.
Despite the warnings, USA Today’s examination of all 464 sites on the list found that federal and state regulators had done little to investigate many of the sites or warn thousands of families and children in harm’s way. Ingesting even tiny amounts of lead dust can cause irreversible loss of intelligence, attention disorders and other health problems. The series is available at ghostfactories.usatoday.com.
Interestingly, USA Today has been able to document locations and operations of factories that government regulators said couldn’t be found. It remains unclear how thorough the latest round of hazard assessments will be. Many of them are being done for the EPA by state regulators. State officials cite limited resources and the difficulty of proving that off-site contamination came from the old lead factories among the reasons for their approach. Other sources of lead in soil can include emissions from flaking lead-based paint and vehicles that once burned leaded gasoline. But the old factories present a real problem.
Source: USA Today
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