Anaconda Smelter Exposure Investigation (EI)

Deer Lodge County, Montana

chimney producing large smoke

At 585 feet tall, the Anaconda Smelter Stack is the tallest surviving masonry structure in the world. From 1918 to 1981, people from miles around could see dark smoke billowing from the chimney as part of the production activities at the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in Deer Lodge County, Montana. County health officials were concerned about arsenic and lead exposures created by the smelter’s past mining activities.

ATSDR conducted an exposure investigation (EI) to evaluate community exposure to lead in Anaconda in the fall of 2018. They published the EI report and presented its results to the community at a public meeting in 2019.

ATSDR representatives, working with Deer Lodge County health officials, conducted the EI in two phases. First, they tested blood lead and urine arsenic levels of more than 370 residents. Then they paired the biological results with the results of a questionnaire to determine exposure.

The EI concluded that levels of blood lead and urinary arsenic measured in residents of Anaconda were comparable to those of the U.S. population as a whole. People who reported working in jobs associated with potential lead exposure had relatively higher blood lead levels than the Anaconda EI participants. ATSDR recommended continued blood lead testing for children younger than six years in the Anaconda community.

ATSDR and its partners also provided in-person advice about household and workplace exposure prevention to over 500 citizens. They shared their health recommendations via media outlets to approximately 9,000 citizens, focusing on vulnerable individuals like parents of small children and pregnant women.

ATSDR Regional Staff received a personal thank you from the governor of Montana for their work in leading an exposure investigation (EI) for the Anaconda Smelter site.

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Page last reviewed: December 8, 2020