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On November 29, 2001, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) received a request to review environmental data provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region I (EPA) regarding the High Street Farm in Billerica, Massachusetts. ATSDR reviewed analytical data for water, soil, and dust wipe samples to determine if the chemicals found posed a health threat to humans or horses involved with the horse farm and riding stables.

The High Street Farm is an active horse farm/stable, located about 20 miles northwest of Boston, Massachusetts. The property is not linked to any known waste site, industrial source, or other area of chemical contamination. The Iron Horse Superfund site, however, is located within a few miles of the stables. The owner/operator of the stables initiated the environmental sampling through EPA to attempt to explain adverse symptoms exhibited by people and horses at the site. The reported health concerns included the owner coughing up bloody sputum and bleeding hooves observed on some of the horses.

On March 22, 2001, EPA collected water, soil and dust samples at this site. The single water sample came from a private well located on site. Two soil samples were also obtained from a stable stall at a depth of 0-2 inches and one from some sawdust/hay material. Two dust wipes were collected from the concrete floor and an inside wall of a stall. EPA tested these samples for metals, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and semi-volatile organic compounds.

Question posed to ATSDR: Do the chemicals detected in the water, soil, or dust pose a public health hazard?


A review of the information provided by EPA did not indicate the presence of any chemicals at the High Street Farm which could cause adverse health effects in humans or animals. The analytical results reported for each environmental matrix are discussed below.

Soil data
Almost all semi-volatile organic compounds screened were below the level of detection. Two phthlate compounds were detected at low levels, but they were also found in the trip blank QA/QC samples. This finding likely indicates that the site was not the source for these chemicals. These chemicals are typically associated with plasticizers and could be attributed to contamination during transport or handling of the sample containers. Even if these phthlates are present in these levels in the environment, they are well below hazardous levels.

The following three organic chemicals were reported at very low concentrations (ppb): benzaldehyde (3.1 ppb), 4-methylphenol (1.2 ppb), and methylmethanesulfonate (0.25 ppb). The presence of these compounds in these concentrations is not considered to be hazardous.

From 9 to 11 metals were detected in each soil sample and indicated typical soil metal concentrations. Possible causes of human or animal health problems were not indicated.

Water data
The ten metals detected in the one water sample were within acceptable ranges and did not indicate the potential for any health related problems in humans, horses, or other animals. No data on semi-volatile organic compounds, pesticides or PCBs were available for review. However, many of these compounds are not very water soluble and would not likely be found in water.

Dust (wipe) data
All pesticides and PCBs were below the levels of detection on the wipe samples. Of the 22 metals analyzed in each wipe sample, from 1 to 10 were detected in each sample. Concentrations reported were typically less than those reported for the soil samples. The results did not indicate the potential for any health related problems.


  1. Environmental sampling results for all matrices and compounds tested were either reported as non-detects or were within acceptable ranges.

  2. The metals and organic chemicals reported did not indicate environmental contaminants as a cause for potential health problems in humans or animals.


  1. Followup with local veterinarian to determine possible explanation for bleeding conditions exhibited by horses at the stables.

  2. Investigate the possibility of biological contaminants that may be creating the reported adverse health conditions in both humans and animals.


Steve Dearwent
Exposure Investigations Section
Exposure Investigations and Consultations Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

W. Allen Robinson, Ph.D.
Superfund Site Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Reviewed by:

Maurice C. West, PE, DEE
Deputy Branch Chief
Exposure Investigations and Consultations Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

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