PRELIMINARY PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
U.S. SMELTER AND LEAD REFINERY, INC.
(a/k/a USS LEAD REFINERY INC.)
EAST CHICAGO, LAKE COUNTY, INDIANA
The US Smelter and Lead Refinery, Inc. site is a public health hazard because chronic exposure to contaminated soils, wastes, and airborne dusts could cause adverse health effects. The contaminants are lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and antimony. Soils and air at the E.C. DuPont facility near USS Lead have been heavily contaminated with lead. Soils and air in residential areas have also become contaminated by lead to a lesser extent. Adverse health effects could include impaired learning and behavioral tasks, altered motor activity, and mild changes in blood heme synthesis. Additional effects are kidney and skin cancer.
Although a blood lead study was conducted on children in East Chicago, no conclusions can be drawn regarding the impact of the site on children in the area from the limited information currently available about this study.
- Practice dust-control methods during all remedial activities at USS Lead.
- Educate workers at E.C. DuPont and nearby residents about the health effects from lead exposure, and methods to lessen potential exposure.
- Characterize off-site surface soils in residential areas to determine the extent of the contamination in terms of the size of the contaminated area and the types of contaminants.
- Obtain more information concerning the blood lead study conducted on children in East Chicago to enhance the evaluation of existing health outcome data.
Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) Statement
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, as amended, requires ATSDR to perform public health actions needed at hazardous waste sites. To determine if public health actions are needed, ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) has evaluated the data and information in the USS Lead Preliminary Public Health Assessment. The information available indicates that humans have been and are being exposed to levels of contamination that may cause illness.
HARP determined that community residents, E.C. DuPont workers, and health professionals in the area should be provided with information about lead exposure, and that a study of indicators for lead exposure in workers at E.C. DuPont is needed.
In addition, it was determined that further clarification of off-site contamination is needed in order to determine if there are other groups who are likely to be exposed at levels that could cause adverse health effects.
Public Health Action Plan
The Public Health Action Plan (PHAP) for USS Lead contains a description of actions to be taken by ATSDR and/or the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) at and in the vicinity of the site subsequent to the completion of this preliminary public health assessment. The purpose of the PHAP is to ensure that this public health assessment not only identifies public health hazards, but provides a plan of action designed to mitigate and prevent adverse human health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment. Included is a commitment on the part of ATSDR/ISDH to follow up on this plan to ensure that it is implemented. The public health actions to be implemented by ATSDR/ISDH are listed below.
- ATSDR/ISDH will attempt to acquire additional information regarding the blood lead study which was conducted in 1985 to enhance the evaluation of existing health outcome data.
- ATSDR has a continuing role to play as an advisor and source of information for the community surrounding USS Lead. In this capacity, ATSDR will continue its dialogue with the community, working to provide needed health information and other site issues, and to seek feedback from residents about concerns and information needs.
- An environmental health education program is recommended to advise the public health professional and the local medical community of the nature and possible consequences of exposure to contaminants at the USS Lead site. The value of obtaining a complete and accurate exposure history will be stressed as part of this program. In addition, information that is provided on the contaminants of concern may include, but not be limited to, the physical nature of the contaminant, potential health effects, symptoms of exposure and testing and treatment, if known. This activity will be conducted by the ATSDR Division of Health Education in conjunction with the local medical community.
- ISDH, in cooperation with ATSDR, will conduct a health education program to advise the community of the possible consequences of exposure to contaminants at USS Lead. Actions which can lessen exposures will be stressed.
- ATSDR/ISDH will notify E.C. DuPont regarding the concerns about exposure to DuPont workers, and will coordinate efforts with DuPont to determine the extent of that exposure. DuPont workers will be targeted for health education.
- ATSDR/ISDH will cooperate with the US EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management as necessary to implement other site characterization actions.
ATSDR will reevaluate and expand the PHAP when needed. New environmental, toxicological, or health outcome data, or the results of implementing the above proposed actions may determine the need for additional actions at USS Lead.
Preparers of Report:
- Dana Abouelnasr, PhD
Remedial Programs Branch
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Environmental Epidemiology Section
Indiana State Department of Health
Environmental Epidemiology Section
Indiana State Department of Health
ATSDR Regional Representative:
- Louise Fabinski
Regional Representative, Region V
Office of Regional Operations
ATSDR Technical Project Officer:
- William J. Greim
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Remedial Programs Branch
This U.S. Lead Smelter and Refinery Inc, Public Health Assessment was prepared by the
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Indiana State Department
of Health under a cooperative agreement. It is in accordance with approved methodology and
procedures existing at the time the public health assessment was begun.
Technical Project Officer
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC)
The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this public health
assessment, and concurs with its findings.
Robert C. Williams, P.E., DEE
Director, DHAC, ATSDR
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