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Dept. of Health offers free lead tests in Palmerton

Published February 20. 2019 12:33PM

The Pennsylvania Department of Health will host a free blood-lead screening from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at Palmerton Area Junior High School on Fireline Road.

Testing comes in the wake of a recent federal study showing residents may have been exposed to lead from air pollution.

“Lead is toxic,” Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “That’s why it’s important for adults and children to have their blood screened to see if you’ve experienced any exposure levels that are not safe. The side effects of lead exposure can be dangerous, even fatal.”

While walk-ins are welcome, preregistering is preferred. Residents wishing to preregister can do so by calling 877-PA-HEALTH (877-724-3258).

“While the screening is free to members of the community, the Department of Health encourages residents to speak to their primary care provider first about insurance-covered blood testing, such as by Medicaid, CHIP and other insurance providers,” Levine said.

Lead is a naturally occurring element in the Earth’s crust and can be found in our air, soil and water. It can also be found in some man-made products, such as lead-based paint, some manufacturing products, and the burning of fossil fuels.

“Based on our preliminary spatial analysis of air modeling results and available state monitoring data, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concludes that a public health hazard is likely for young children and/or pregnant women living within 3 miles of the American Zinc Recycling facility,” Dr. Karl Markiewicz, senior toxicologist, wrote in a report released July 31. “Young children and/or pregnant women could experience long-term health problems from exposure to lead in the outdoor air.”

The levels detected at the Palmerton NAAQS monitor exceeded the three-month rolling average of 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter of air, which is the national standard, one time over the 2013-15 monitoring period.

The Environmental Protection Agency, however, conducted air modeling using AERMOD Model 3 and came away with differing, more concerning, results.

The AERMOD shows the highest estimated monthly average lead concentration at 0.268 micrograms per cubic meter of air and the highest estimated rolling three-month average lead concentration at 0.244 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

Approximately 850 people live within 1 mile of the American Zinc Recycling site, while the population of the entire town of Palmerton is approximately 5,000. AZR operates four horizontal kilns that heat electric-arc furnace dust to high temperatures, volatilizing metals for recovery as co-products and products. Due to the chemical composition of EAF dust and combustion reactions, Markiewicz said, each kiln emits criteria pollutants and heavy metals, including lead, zinc, nickel, cadmium and chromium.

Highlighting Markiewicz’s recommendations following the report are avoiding additional exposure to lead, and getting children tested annually.

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