PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
DEPUE/NEW JERSEY ZINC/MOBIL CHEMICAL CORPORATION
DEPUE, BUREAU COUNTY, ILLINOIS
IDPH considers the site a public health hazard because of the potential exposures to contamination in surface soils and sediments and because of the likely long-term past exposures. Long-term past exposures to workers and residents in DePue were likely, and conditions still exist that could result in additional exposures. The opportunity for people to be exposed to contaminants on site have decreased because of security measures that have been implemented.
The contaminants of interest include metals that are found at elevated levels in residential soils. Cadmium and lead are the nonessential heavy metals known to accumulate in humans and other animals that are present at concentrations that could result in adverse health effects because of the cumulative nature of the metals. Excessive internal accumulation of cadmium can lead to kidney and skeletal disorders, and excessive lead exposure is especially damaging to young children. Because of the cumulative nature of cadmium and lead, former workers and long-time residents may have elevated body burdens accumulated during their lifetimes, and any subsequent exposures have the potential to result in adverse health effects. Biological screening for cadmium and lead in 1992 did not measure any exposures experienced by the group of volunteers that could be attributed to site conditions. Those tests only capture recent exposures to lead and cadmium and do not provide information on historical exposure.
No information is available on whether garden products contain cadmium, and information on residential soil lead and cadmium levels is limited.
Although private wells appear to be upgradient of source areas, some wells near the gypstack may not be geologically isolated from that area.
New information generated during the on-going cleanup efforts and RIs will be reviewed by IDPH as it becomes available.
Cease/Reduce Exposure Recommendations
- The site properties need continued security to prevent access to wastes.
- Education of residents should continue regarding methodologies to reduce exposures to environmental contamination in residential soil.
Site Characterization Recommendations
- Soil samples from concerned citizens' properties and gardens should be collected and analyzed.
- Private wells near the gypstack should be surveyed. If any potable wells are identified, they should be sampled for the inorganic compounds found in this area.
- Blood lead and urine cadmium samples have been collected from a group of residents who live near the site. The biological testing was to determine if immediate measures were necessary to remove contamination to stop exposure. The testing showed that no current exposure was occurring that would warrant emergency action.
- Information has been distributed to residents around the facility, especially those with high levels of lead, cadmium, and zinc in their yards, on how to clean their homes and how to prevent tracking contaminated soil and dust into their homes. The information has been provided in English and in Spanish to be sure that all residents understand the written materials. Additionally, interpreters have been provided in public meetings to be sure that residents understand verbal information provided and to ensure everyone's concerns are understood.
- To address community concerns regarding multiple sclerosis among residents, IDPH arranged to have cases confirmed. That information is presented in an attachment to this document.
- Both USEPA and Illinois EPA are aware of community concern about contamination on residential properties and of IDPH's recommendation to sample those areas if requested. If yards and garden soils are sampled and analyzed, IDPH will provide property owners with the results and with appropriate consultation.
- IDPH will continue with community health education to inform residents on how they can reduce their exposure to contaminated soils and dusts.
- IDPH will work with Illinois EPA to see if private drinking water wells are in the area that could be affected by the gypstack. If so, IDPH will work with Illinois EPA to sample those wells for contamination. IDPH will provide well owners with the results.
- IDPH will continue to evaluate this site for appropriate health follow-up activities as additional environmental data and information become available.
ATSDR's Child Health Initiative recognizes that the unique vulnerabilities of infants and children demand special emphasis in communities faced with contamination of their environment. Children are at greater risk than adults from certain kinds of exposures to hazardous substances emitted from sites. They are more likely exposed because they play outdoors and they often bring food into contaminated areas. They are shorter than adults, which means they can breathe in any dusts close to the ground. Children are also smaller, resulting in higher doses of chemical exposure per body weight. The developing body systems of children can sustain permanent damage if toxic exposures occur during critical growth stages. Also, children depend completely on adults for risk identification and management decisions, housing decisions, and access to medical care.
IDPH evaluated the likelihood for residents living near the site to be exposed to lead at levels of health concern. Historically, children, who are now adults, were likely exposed to chemical contaminants at higher levels than they are presently. Soil lead levels in residential properties do not appear to be at concentrations that would elevate residents' blood lead levels. Still, metals in soils and sediments present sources of exposure for area children; however, in the future, exposures should decrease as remediation and educational efforts continue.
Illinois Department of Public Health
Illinois Department of Public Health
ATSDR Regional Representative
Office of the Assistant Administrator
ATSDR Technical Project Officers
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Division of Health Studies
Division of Health Education and Promotion
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