Silver Valley Action

LEAD HEALTH CONCERNS IN THE BUNKER HILL SUPERFUND SITE

By Dr. Gayle Eversole, Board member, Silver Valley Community Resource Center

I have been reading a US Government report that looked at lead exposure in Silver Valley homes.

This topic interests me because of my background in public health.  Over the last six years I have been concerned about the lack of health screening by the local health district, and by the ongoing and obstructive tactics of Idaho’s health and welfare agency, especially the Medicaid office, and EPA.

Several years ago I started collecting lead testing data so that I could get some idea of exactly what was being done by the local health district.  My findings showed that the health district’s effort was no less than abysmal.  Coupling this with what I knew from the court ordered Medicaid meetings, I could only come to the conclusion that 1) public health is not a priority; and 2) current standard public health guidelines are not followed; and 3) there is an absence of outreach effort.

Currently the science surrounding lead testing tells us that THERE IS NO SAFE LEVEL OF LEAD EXPOSURE.

Currently the science tells us that any blood lead level in excess of 2 (two) must be addressed to prevent further and future health damage. John Rosen, MD, a renowned pediatrician and lead health expert, long associated with SVCRC, agrees.

As I observe and follow this issue, I know that Idaho continues to rely on the old blood lead level of 10 (ten) and that they promote this outdated result when making claims about how lead levels in the Silver Valley “are coming down”.

It is unfair and misleading to say that lead levels in the Silver Valley are coming down.  It is fair to say that no one at the health district really knows what the true lead levels are because testing is inadequate.  Additionally, in consideration of the children who receive Medicaid support, the Federal guidelines for lead testing required for Medicaid recipients are not being met.

One issue is clear, interior home cleanup is not being accomplished even though it is always listed in EPA’s mission.  Interior re-contamination is an ongoing issue and continues daily through exposure to heavy metal toxins from both outdoor and indoor dust, and other sources.

Yet another concern is that yard cleanup in the Silver Valley was done at substandard levels when compared to other EPA cleanup sites, and as such may contribute to the problem.

Recently Johns Hopkins researchers, who worked with the Silver Valley Community Resource Center to accomplish their research, reported that there is a strong stigma attached to the concept of lead testing in the area.  This verifies the facts that SVCRC has been stating for years.  And still, no response has come from the local health agency - the state - or EPA - to address this.

Another of the studies shows that the reported presence of blood lead levels (BLL) in 77 of 80 homes was in excess of the old recommended toxic level of 10.

This study pointed out too that the majority of homes should be considered as “hot spots” because the interior home dust levels contained high lead concentrations. 

This report stressed that there should be prevention activities in the basin.  To the best of my knowledge, the only prevention activity comes from that done by the Silver Valley Community Resource Center.

The report specifically identified that “recreational activities in the basin are a significant route of exposure to lead”.  EPA Region X continues to state that there is no risk from recreational exposure, yet EPA paid for signage that indicated such. (see tourism)

It is also stated that health effects may not always be apparent at elevated lead levels until sometime after initial exposure; that increased hazard is likely if other routes of exposure are unaccounted for, such as lead based paint and home water supply. 


Additionally, significant lead levels in locations outside homes may lead to increased blood lead levels in children, such as daycare centers and common use areas.  Other routes of potential exposure pathways were identified, such as eating fish caught in the Basin’s rivers and lakes, and eating home grown produce.


All 80 homes showed presence of lead.  In 17 of the 80 homes evaluated the findings show less than a lead level of 2 (two).  In one home the lead level detected was over 60; 13 homes tested at double digit BLL. 


Remember, adults in the area are at risk of lead exposure too, and should get tested.

This chart shows the suggested action needed:  Comprehensive Follow-up Services Recommended According to Diagnostic Blood Lead Level (BLL) (Source: CDC)

 

BLL

Action

<10

Reassess or rescreen in 1 year. No additional action necessary unless exposure source changes.

10-14

Provide Family lead education.
Provide follow-up testing.
Refer for social services, if necessary.

15-19

Provide Family lead education.
Provide follow-up testing.
Refer for social services, if necessary.
If BLLs persist (i.e., 2 venous BLLs in this range at least 3 months apart) or worsen, proceed according to actions for BLLs 20-44.

20-44

Provide coordination of care (case management).
Provide clinical management (described in text).
Provide environmental investigation.
Provide lead-hazard control.

45-69

Within 48 hours, begin coordination of care (case management), clinical management (described in text), environmental investigation, and lead hazard control.

>70

Hospitalize child and begin medical treatment immediately. Begin coordination of care (case management), clinical management (described in text), environmental investigation, and lead hazard control immediately.

 

Since becoming a volunteer for SVCRC in 2004 I have yet to see any of the above referenced measures instituted by the local health district or EPA.

SVCRC was awarded $5 million for a clinic to do screening and follow up care.  However, the money was diverted elsewhere.

I think it is well past time that the community sees exactly how SVCRC in its 24 years of continued service has worked tirelessly to serve the people of the affected Silver Valley communities, and those downstream.

Please step forward now to support and stand with the organization that advocates for you.

©October 1, 2010

 


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