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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

PALMERTON ZINC PILE
PALMERTON, CARBON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA


CONCLUSIONS

PADOH and ATSDR conclude that this site is a public health hazard because people are exposed to contaminants at concentrations that may result in adverse human health effects. As noted in the Pathways Analyses section, human exposure to metals is occurring and has occurred in the past either directly through ingestion of the contaminated soil and/or dust or indirectly through inhalation of contaminated airborne particulates and through ingestion of contaminated drinking water. People may also be exposed to contaminants through ingestion of contaminated surface water, sediment, or eating contaminated fish, animal meats, or home grown vegetables. Chronic exposure to cadmium at levels found in soil and drinking water could result in adverse human health effects, particularly on the kidney. However, evaluation of available mortality data did not identify any health impact that can be conclusively linked to exposure to contamination from the site. Because of concern for possible adverse health impact on the people living in the community, an exposure health study was begun in the Palmerton area prior to completion of the public health assessment.

Other sources of lead dust may be present in the community, but not all sources have been identified.

Some tap water contains lead, cadmium, and arsenic at levels that are of public health concern. More characterization of area groundwater is needed to evaluate that environmental pathway.

More characterization is needed to assess potential exposure to contaminated surface water and sediments.

Little information is available on the number of people who consume home-grown vegetables and fish and animals living in the area. Also, information is lacking on levels of contaminants in edible portions of those food items.

Children who exhibit pica behavior may be more susceptible to zinc toxicity if they come into contact with zinc in the areas where the highest concentrations were found.

Environmental data that have been collected since the beginning of the public health assessment process will be evaluated through other mechanisms such as site reviews and update or health consultations.


RECOMMENDATIONS

Site Characterization Recommendations

Investigate other potential current sources of the lead dust in the community.

Proceed with Operable Unit #4 investigations to provide information on area groundwater and surface water. Consider treating the water of affected residences.

Proceed with investigations on current use and consumption of area-grown vegetables and fish and other animals. Tests for current levels of metals in those food items would be useful in assessing possible exposures through consumption of the food.


Health Activities Follow-Up Recommendations

Make the exposure study available to the community.

Make the community aware of areas that contain high levels of zinc so that young children will not play in those areas.

Evaluate new information collected at the site for public health implications.


Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) Determinations

The data and information developed in the Public Health Assessment for the Palmerton Zinc site, Palmerton, Pennsylvania, have been evaluated by ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel for appropriate follow-up with respect to health activities. The Panel agrees that the on-going biological indicators of exposure study, conducted by ATSDR's Division of Health Studies, in association with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, is appropriate for the site. In addition, HARP determined that community and health professionals education is needed.


PUBLIC HEALTH ACTIONS

The Public Health Action Plan (PHAP) for the Palmerton Zinc Pile site contains a description of actions to be taken by ATSDR and/or PADOH at and in the vicinity of the site prior to or subsequent to the completion of this 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 and PADOH to follow-up on this plan to ensure that it is implemented. The public health actions implemented or to be implemented by ATSDR and PADOH are as follows:


Actions Taken:

PADOH distributed educational materials on cadmium and lead to the general community. These educational materials included methods of preventing any unnecessary exposures to these toxic materials. PADOH will prepare additional educational materials on arsenic and zinc if deemed necessary.

ATSDR's Division of Health Education (DHE) is providing health education in the Palmerton area. DHE has provided information and health education programs on lead and cadmium for physicians, nurses, and other health care providers. Staff from DHE have met with members of the Community Task Force and the Community Assistance Panel and has provided information about lead and cadmium toxicity for members of the community. Upon release of the Biological Indicators of Exposure to Cadmium and Lead, Palmerton, Pennsylvania study, additional health education may be necessary. If so, additional educational activities will be conducted by DHE in conjunction with the local medical community.

The biological indicators of exposure study has been completed and will be released in 1994. The study focuses on two target areas in Palmerton and in a comparison community (East Jim Thorpe) and should provide further insight into sources of lead dust. The objectives of the exposure study were as follows:

  1. To determine the dose measures of cadmium and lead in blood and urine in the target population (Palmerton and part of Aquashicola) and compare them with dose measures found in the comparison population (East Jim Thorpe).
  2. To determine the extent to which environmental, behavioral, occupational, socio-economic, and other factors influence exposure to cadmium and lead in the target and comparison populations.

A health consultation has been completed and is included in Appendix B of this document. The health consultation was included as part of the exposure study and assesses exposures to lead, cadmium, zinc, and arsenic present in the environment.

Indoor dust samples were collected as part of the exposure study. That information is addressed in the 1991 health consultation.

Other activities completed at the site are outlined in the Background section of this document.


Actions Planned:

The second part of the exposure study is to be released late in 1994. That part of the study addresses a set of medical test batteries, which were obtained from study participants, that assess immune, kidney, and liver function.

ATSDR will reevaluate and expand the Public Health Action Plan 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 this site.


PREPARERS OF THE REPORT

James M. Fox, M.D.
Environmental Physician
Division of Environmental Health Assessment
Pennsylvania Department of Health

Thomas Hartman
Statistician
Division of Environmental Health Assessment
Pennsylvania Department of Health

ATSDR Regional Representative:

Charles Walters
Senior Regional Representative
Regional Services
Office of the Assistant Administrator, ATSDR

ATSDR Technical Project Officer:

Gail Godfrey
Technical Project Officer
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Remedial Programs Branch



CERTIFICATION

The Palmerton Zinc Pile Site Public Health Assessment has been prepared by the Pennsylvania Department of Health under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the public health assessment was initiated.

Gail D. Godfrey
Technical Project Officer, SPS, RPB, 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


REFERENCES
  1. Environmental Protection Agency, Superfund Program Fact Sheet, Palmerton Zinc Site, May 1988, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region III, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

  2. Environmental Protection Agency, ERC Report on Palmerton, January 1989, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Research Center, Las Vegas, Nevada.

  3. Environmental Protection Agency, Declaration for the Record of Decision, Operable Unit #2, June 1988, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region III, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

  4. Remedial Investigation Contractor (REWAI), Palmerton Zinc Off-Site Study Area Draft of Remedial Investigation and Risk Assessment, Volumes I through V, January 27, 1988.

  5. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Preliminary Health Assessment Palmerton Zinc Site, February 4, 1987, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, Georgia.

  6. Environmental Protection Agency, Declaration for the Record of Decision, Operable Unit #1, September 1987, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region III, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

  7. Centers for Disease Control, Memo dated February 15, 1985, to Charles Walters from Chief, Superfund Implementation Group, Re: Review of Cancer Mortality Rates in Palmerton Zinc Site Area, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia.

  8. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Health Consultation: Palmerton Zinc Site, Appalachian Trail Impact, Memo dated November 16, 1990, to Charles Walters from Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, Georgia.

  9. Storm, et al, Final Report, The Impact Assessment of Wildlife Resources at the Palmerton Superfund Site, submitted to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1989.

  10. Carbine, et al, Final Report, The Effects of Heavy Metal Contamination on Aquatic Fauna in the Vicinity of the Palmerton Smelters, submitted to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, September 1988.

  11. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Toxicological Profile for Zinc, U.S. Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, Georgia, December 1989.

  12. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Toxicological Profile for Cadmium, U.S. Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, Georgia, March 1989.

  13. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Toxicological Profile for Lead, U.S. Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, Georgia, June 1990.

  14. Pennsylvania Department of Health, Health Data Center, Mortality Data Palmerton Borough, Carbon County, Pennsylvania, 1990.

  15. Palmerton Hospital, correspondence from the hospital, August 1991, re: the Palmerton Hospital blood lead screening program.

  16. Brown, et al, Lung Cancer in Relation to Environmental Pollutants Emitted from Industrial Sources; Environmental Research 34, 250-261 (1984).

  17. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (CDC), Health Hazard Evaluation Report, Carbonnaire Company, Palmerton, PA (HETA 91-073-2165), December 1991.

  18. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Toxicological Profile for Arsenic, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Draft, October 1991.

  19. Nordstrom, S., Beckman L., and Nordenson, I., "Occupational and Environmental Risks in and around a Smelter in Northern Sweden. I. Variations in Birthweight," Hereditas, 88, 1978, p. 43-46. (Cited in ATSDR, 1989).

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