ATSDR completed a health consultation for East Liverpool in November 2010. ATSDR found that the levels of manganese in the air were a public health hazard. This means that some people may have been exposed to levels high enough to cause subtle effects on their nervous systems. In adults, these effects could include problems with motor skills, such as control of hand movement. In children, very high exposures could cause problems in learning or remembering. ATSDR recommended additional actions to reduce manganese levels in the air. ATSDR also recommended monitoring community health as it relates to manganese.
ATSDR initiated a collaborative effort with Dr. Rosemary Bowler, a manganese expert at San Francisco State University, to develop a protocol to assess the neurological impact of exposure to manganese in this community. This collaboration led to a USEPA-funded neurological health outcome research study with San Francisco State University, ATSDR, USEPA, and international manganese experts. The study was completed in 2011-2012, and a number of research papers are being prepared for publication. ATSDR staff provided vital exposure assessment expertise to the research project, which identified clinically-detectable neurological changes that correlate with chronic low level exposure to manganese in the residential population studied in East Liverpool.
More information on the research project can be found at:
Since 1999, the Ohio EPA has been sampling outdoor air at three locations in East Liverpool: Maryland Avenue, the Port Authority, and the Michigan Avenue Water Plant. In 2008, the Ohio EPA asked ATSDR to look at whether levels of metals in air in the East Liverpool community could pose a health problem for people living in the area. To answer Ohio EPA’s question, ATSDR worked with the Ohio EPA, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA).
In 2008, Ohio EPA completed the East Liverpool Ohio Air Quality Study. That study identified health risks from exposures to airborne manganese and chromium exposures. A further investigation of the forms of chromium present determined that chromium did not pose a hazard, but manganese was the predominant source of risk for non-cancer health effects. ATSDR’s 2010 Health Consultation concluded that manganese levels in the air were high enough to be a health hazard. The Water Plant site had the highest concentrations of manganese. Next highest—but with much lower concentrations—was the Port Authority site. The lowest was the Maryland Avenue (East Elementary School) site. The weather data indicated that manganese levels were higher during times when the wind blew from the southeast—that is, from the direction of the S.H. Bell State Line facility—compared with when it blew from other directions. Levels of all other metals were not of health concern.
From June 2011 to January 2912, USEPA sampled air at the East Elementary School as part of their School Air Toxics Assessment due to health concerns for children exposed to manganese in air. The study confirmed that elevated manganese in the community were of health concern, even after enforcement actions had reduced manganese emissions from S.H. Bell.
ATSDR continues to monitor outdoor air data collected by Ohio EPA, and works closely with Ohio EPA, ODH, and U.S. EPA to evaluate potential problems with air concentrations of metals in the community. Although levels of manganese have generally decreased due to engineering and process changes at S.H. Bell (the source of the manganese) ATSDR is still observing infrequent but high manganese levels in the air that could cause the subtle nervous system effects identified in the USEPA Health Outcome Study described above.
What Is Being Done About Manganese in Outdoor Air?
When ATSDR identified a health hazard, Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA aggressively worked with S.H. Bell to identify parts of the facility that could be modified to reduce dust emissions. Enforcement actions began in 2008, where through a Director’s Findings and Orders Ohio EPA required S.H. Bell to pave roads, initiate a dust suppression program, move outdoor storage piles into a covered storage area, build a load out structure for trucks, and investigate other ways to reduce emissions at the facility. While outdoor air monitoring results showed manganese concentrations dropped after the initial enforcement action, they were still elevated at levels of health concern. As a result, in 2010, Ohio EPA issued another Findings and Orders that required S.H. Bell to take additional measures to reduce dust emissions on their property, including: the application of dust suppressants, watering and sweeping paved roads to reduce dust, management of dust emissions when transporting manganese product in trucks and trains (e.g., tarping, indoor loading, etc.), engineering upgrades to keep products from being emitted offsite (e.g., replacing seals on equipment, creating loader tunnels for barge delivery of product, establishing wet dust suppression requirement for gondola and boxcar unloading, etc.), and additional enclosed storage and loading of manganese-containing products.
Manganese is a naturally occurring metal found in rocks and soil. Small amounts of it are important for good health. Beans, nuts, and tea, among other foods, contain manganese. Industrial and other human activities can also release manganese into the air. Breathing or eating too much manganese could cause problems to the nervous system. You can learn more about manganese at ATSDR’s Toxic Substances Portal.
- Page last reviewed: November 10, 2010
- Page last updated: May 22, 2015
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