Skip to main content

Pa. releases Palmerton lead results from health screening

  • Empty

    An aerial view of the American Zinc Recycling facility. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

Published April 22. 2019 11:36AM


Twelve out of 267 people screened in Palmerton in February had elevated lead levels equal to or exceeding 5 micrograms per deciliter, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recently reported.

The state held the free blood screening for Palmerton residents after a study from the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry detected elevated levels of lead in the air enclosing American Zinc Recycling.

The department tested a total of 267 people at the screening, held Feb. 23. Ten males and two females had elevated lead levels equal to or exceeding 5 micrograms per deciliter. Three of the 12 were children aged 0-5, two were aged 16 to 44 and seven were aged 45 to 64.

Of the 267 tested, 40 said to have lived within less than one-half mile of American Zinc Recycling. Sixty-seven live one-half mile to less than 1 mile away, 84 live one to less than 2 miles away, 25 live 2 to less than 3 miles away and 51 live 3 or more than 3 miles away.

Two of those who tested for elevated lead levels live less than one-half mile away from the facility, three live 1 to 2 miles away and seven live 3 or more miles away. Eighteen of the 184 tested aged 16 or older said they held a lead-related occupation; seven of those 18 people tested positive for elevated lead levels.

Across the board, the blood lead levels for all participants ranged between less than 2 micrograms per deciliter to 20 micrograms per deciliter.

In a news release detailing the results, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said there is no safe level for lead in your blood. Even at low levels, the naturally occurring element can affect one’s IQ levels, attention span and educational success.

A Pennsylvania Department of Health representative said the department is letting the results stand on their own.

Reasons for testing

American Zinc Recycling operates at the former east plant of the Palmerton Zinc Company, using the company’s old furnaces to recycle metal containing zinc.

Tuesday night, representatives from the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection provided background on how the agency ended up looking for health hazards from the site, and what is being done since the hazard was identified.

An EPA official said an air quality monitor was first installed near the plant in 2012, after the company reported they were releasing more than a half ton per year of lead emissions.

DEP, which operated the air quality monitor, noted that the lead levels exceeded the national standard.

In January 2017, they contacted the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which created a computer model based on air quality readings, and determined there was likely a public health hazard for young children and pregnant women. The meeting was held to explain that process.

The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s report, released last July, declared a public health hazard within 3 miles of American Zinc Recycling.

Soil samples

Soil samples taken at two locations in Palmerton exceeded the statewide health standards for metals, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Palmerton Borough Park and West End Day Care, a private facility, were locations with the excess levels. Results of samples taken at eight other locations came back below statewide standards.

According to DEP, the sampling was done after a report issued last year by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concluded a public health hazard is likely for young children and pregnant women living near the American Zinc Recycling facility in Palmerton.

In October 2018, representatives from DEP, ATSDR and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted both soil screening and soil sampling at 10 locations in the borough. DEP utilized an X-ray Fluorescence device for the soil screening, which is an X-ray instrument used for nondestructive chemical analyses of rocks, minerals, sediments and fluids. A total of 141 XRF scans for lead, cadmium, chromium, zinc, nickel and copper were completed at the properties. In addition, a total of 18 traditional soil samples were taken at the properties. The samples were sent to DEP’s Bureau of Laboratories in Harrisburg for analysis of lead, cadmium, chromium, zinc, nickel and copper.

The analysis of the XRF screening indicated, aside from the metal levels, a high level of moisture in the soil, which could have impacted those results, DEP officials said.

The report’s results sparked a town hall late last year, as well as an agreement between Palmerton Area School District and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for a permanent air monitoring station and meteorological tower at the junior high/high school complex in Lower Towamensing. The agreement, made in January, spans three years.


You just don't know what to believe anymore. Truth... What is truth?
Wait till they start issuing reports on the detriments of all that contaminated soil coming in to cover the "Brown Fields" (NJZ).
I'm also curious what these tests would uncover in... Anyothertown, USA.
I have lived across from the East Plant since I was born. I played in the dirt as a kid, we ate vegetables grown in our garden, I breathed the air all my life an lived in the same place. I am now 65 years old and have no health issues related to this other than getting old. My Dad worked at the plant since he was 18 years old and also had no issues and passed away at an old age by natural causes. This is all nonsense, I also would like to see reports of soil from anytown USA and I bet there are many worse contaminates all over this country. People make to much of a fuss over stupid reports. Who are these people Democrats?
I can't believe the pure stupidity of this area...NO lead level is good. But most of the people around here don't believe in global warming either....oh
Global Warming is a fraud. Did you know that it is based upon computer models? Erroneous data is placed in the programs and then results are twisted for desired results. Check out Joe Bastardi. Several Universities were caught sending e-mails asking for temperature probes to be relocated to areas like restaurant exhaust to yield higher temperatures. Universities were happy to comply, they didn’t want to lose that research money. Temperature variations occur, hourly, daily, and seasonally. The sun is the cause of temperature variations. In the life span of your family, starting with your great-great grandfather through to you, that is a mere second on the many years long cosmic clock. The sun has sunspots that come and go. This is due to variations in the gasses within the sun and on the sun’s surface. Four generations of human beings is just a dot on a mile long depiction. The term Global Warming has become Climate Change because it is more vague and easier to accept. Climate Change is more of a political agenda. It is a masterful way to shame Americans into thinking they are ruining the world. It also excuses China, Russia and others. China is like us in the 1880’s with our Industrial Age.The subject of pollution always arises when discussing Climate Change. Of course, we need to be good stewards of our planet. America has made great strides in this with industrial filters on exhaust stacks and recycling, just to name something. We do have a long way to go to reduce/eliminate pollution, but, there is nothing we can do to alter the climate. We had hurricanes, blizzards and weather phenomenon years past just as bad or worse than now.

Classified Ads

Event Calendar


August 2019


Upcoming Events

Twitter Feed