The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) found high levels of manganese in the East Liverpool air. Ohio EPA identified the SH Bell Company, a raw products storage and packaging facility, as the major source of airborne metals detected in community air monitors. Ohio EPA asked ATSDR to look at whether the manganese levels could harm peoples’ health.
ATSDR completed a health consultation for East Liverpool. ATSDR found that the levels of manganese in the air are a public health hazard. This means that some people may be exposed to manganese at 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.
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 has been working 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.
ATSDR reviewed 9 years of outdoor air data collected by Ohio EPA. ATSDR wants to know whether residents were exposed to high levels of chemicals in the air. ATSDR found that the highest manganese levels in the air were near those levels at which subtle nervous system effects, such as motor skill problems, were observed in worker studies. ATSDR then concluded that manganese levels in the air over this 9-year period 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.
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.