Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content




Residents in the neighborhood near the Pfizer site in East St. Louis, St. Clair County, Illinois, requested that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) conduct a public health assessmentof the site. Residents are concerned that they are being exposed to site-related contaminants from theair and soil. From reviewing available data, IDPH concludes that the Pfizer site does not pose apublic health hazard. Because of the lack of air monitoring data, the air pathway poses anindeterminant public health hazard.

The main health issue of concern to area residents is off-site exposure to airborne contaminants fromthe site. Dust is currently released and has also been released in the past. The most notable release isred, iron oxide pigment, and soils surrounding the site have a reddish stain. The pigment settles onhomes and cars and is reportedly difficult to clean from these surfaces. Another concern of arearesidents is exposure to contaminants in the soil.

The chemicals of interest from the site are arsenic, barium, cadmium, and polycyclic aromatichydrocarbons. IDPH estimated exposure to soil contaminants for workers on the site and for childrenand adults off the site. Those soil exposure estimates suggest that no adverse health effects would beexpected.

Additional data should be collected to more fully characterize exposure to dust in air. IDPH willattempt to locate a funding source to measure dust levels in ambient air in residential areas near thesite. Analysis of those air samples should more accurately identify any exposures that might affect nearby residents.


Citizens in the neighborhood near Pfizer, Inc., requested that the Illinois Department of PublicHealth (IDPH) conduct a health assessment to determine whether the site poses a health hazard tonearby residents. A public meeting was held in October 1998 to receive comments and citizens'concerns regarding the site. In addition, volunteers went door-to-door gathering information fromarea residents concerning Pfizer.

The primary health issue is off-site exposure to contaminants in the air that migrate from the site.The most notable release is red, iron oxide pigment. Airborne pigment has been noted and raisesconcerns regarding inhalation exposures to the dust, particularly in the past. The soils surroundingthe site have a reddish stain. The pigment settles on homes and cars and is reportedly difficult toclean from these surfaces. Secondary concerns include dermal contact with dust and contaminatedsurfaces, and ingestion of soil and vegetables grown in local soils.


Site History and Location

Pfizer, Inc., began manufacturing pigments at 2001 Lynch Avenue, East St. Louis, St. Clair County,Illinois in 1941. The site has changed ownership twice since 1941 and has been Elementis Pigment,Inc. since January 1, 1998 (1).

The site is on about 40 acres and is bordered by railroad tracks on the north, east, and west, andLynch Avenue is on the south (Figure 1). A residential area is within 100 feet of the westernboundary of the site. The southern, eastern, and northern sections have vacant land directly adjacentto them; however, residential areas are within 500 feet of the northern and eastern site boundaries. Apark and baseball fields are south and east of the site. Jefferson Elementary School is about 0.25miles northeast of the site.

A fence surrounds the site, and guarded gates are in the southwest corner of the site (2). Thesouthern portion of the site is paved and contains buildings. The northwest portion is not paved andcontains buildings and waste piles of what appears to be asphalt and construction debris. Iron wasteand slag materials have also been observed in this area. Ore and coal piles are known to have beenstored in the northern portion of the property (3).

Manufacturing Processes at the Facility

Products manufactured at this facility are inorganic pigments, including red and yellow iron oxides,barium oxide, and magnetic pigments. Substances used on the site and listed in an IllinoisEnvironmental Protection Agency (IEPA) document included ammonia, ferrous chloride, ferroussulfate, hydrochloric acid, muriatic acid, sodium dichromate, sodium hydroxide, sulfuric acid,barium hydrate, barium hydroxide, and barium peroxide (4).

Primary production at the site is iron oxide pigments. The pigments are produced by placing scrapiron and hydrochloric or sulfuric acid (pickle liquor) into tanks. The pickle liquor is obtained fromlocal steel industries (4). After the acid and iron are heated in tanks for 18 to 24 hours, the solids areremoved from the ferrous sulfate or ferrous chloride solutions. The solids are analyzed to determinewhether they are hazardous and then are sent to an appropriate landfill. The iron compounds areprecipitated out of solution, and the remaining solution is neutralized and discharged to the sanitarysewer (4). The iron oxides produced by this process are then dried, milled, and packed for shipping.

Natural Resource Use

Surface water from the site drains into the sanitary sewer or is discharged to Schoenberger Creek. Surface water runoff from the paved portion of the facility is discharged to the sanitary sewers ineither southwestern or southeastern corners of the property. Surface water runoff from the north andeast portion of the property collects in a low area known as Pickens Pond, which is on the east sideof the property. Wastewater and sludge from the on-site wastewater treatment plant are alsodischarged to Pickens Pond. Release of water from the northern section of the property toSchoenberger Creek is permitted through the storm sewer. Water released into the creek from thispipe has been observed to be orange, suggesting the presence of iron oxide.

Groundwater, provided by three on-site wells, is used as non-contact cooling water at the facility (5).This water is then pumped to a discharge point on the east side of the property (1). This water iseventually discharged to Schoenberger Creek via the underground discharge pipe.

Environmental Sampling

Environmental samples were collected on December 2 and 3, 1997, as part of the IEPA Site TeamEvaluation Prioritization inspection. Soil, sediment, surface water, and groundwater samples havebeen collected for the site (Figure 2). Six on-site soil samples and three off-site soil samples werecollected from the surface to a depth of eight inches. One off-site soil sample, X101, was collected asa background sample. Two sediment samples were collected from Schoenberger Creek, oneupstream and one downstream of the discharge from Pfizer. Three groundwater samples werecollected from two on-site locations. Three surface-water samples were collected, one from the sitefrom Pickens Pond and two from Schoenberger Creek off the site. Creek water samples werecollected from the same locations as sediment samples. Samples collected by IEPA were analyzedfor chemicals listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) as target compounds athazardous waste sites.

Forty soil samples were collected by IDPH in September 1999. The samples were collected from thesurface to a depth of one inch from residential yards and vacant lots to the east, north, and west ofthe plant. The sampling area was bounded by Lynch Avenue to the south, 23rd Street to the east,Lincoln Avenue to the north, and 15th Street to the west. The soil samples were analyzed for arsenic,barium, cadmium, iron, and lead.

An additional twenty samples were collected in and around the Emerson Park neighborhood for theSt. Louis Community Environmental Justice Project (6). The soil samples were collected byIntegrity Engineering of Rolla, Missouri (7). Samples were collected from the top one inch of soil inresidential yards. These soil samples were analyzed for barium, chromium, cobalt, iron, lead, andzinc.

No air samples are known to have been collected near the Pfizer facility. IEPA has an air-monitoringstation in East St. Louis, but not within one-half mile of the site. In 1994 and 1995, IDPH collectedair samples from five locations in East St. Louis, but none of these locations was within one mile ofPfizer.

Site Visit

IDPH has visited the site on several occasions, most recently on November 27, 2000. Conditions atthe facility remain as described earlier. A fence surrounding the site and guarded gates in the southwest corner of the site ensure that access is limited.


Contaminants of Interest

IDPH compared the results of each soil sample with the appropriate screening comparison valueused to select contaminants for further evaluation for carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic healtheffects. Chemicals found at levels greater than comparison values or those for which no comparisonvalues exist were selected for further evaluation (Table 1). A discussion of each comparison value used is found in Attachment 1.

The chemicals of interest at Pfizer are arsenic, barium, cadmium, iron, and polycyclic aromatichydrocarbons (PAHs). Exposure to a chemical at a level that exceeds a comparison value does notnecessarily mean that adverse health effects will result. The potential for exposed persons toexperience adverse health effects depends on:

  • how much of each chemical a person is exposed to,
  • how long a person is exposed, and
  • the health condition of the exposed person.

IDPH recognizes that the number of soil samples collected on the site is limited. Other site-relatedchemicals detected in on-site soil samples may warrant further investigation. Table 2 contains theinorganic chemicals of interest in off-soils from residential yards and vacant lots near Pfizer. Thelocation of the sediment sample is so far removed from the site that contents of the sample mayrepresent contamination from other sources.

Exposure Pathways

People can only be affected by a chemical if they contact it through an exposure pathway at asufficient concentration to cause a toxic effect. This requires a source of exposure, an environmentaltransport medium, a point of exposure, a route of exposure, and a receptor population. A pathway iscomplete if all of its components are present and if people were exposed in the past, are currentlyexposed, or will be exposed in the future. If parts of a pathway are absent, data are insufficient todecide whether it is complete, or exposure may occur at some time (past, present, future), then it is apotential pathway. If part of a pathway is not present and will never exist, the pathway is incomplete and can be eliminated from further consideration.

The completed exposure pathways for this site are shown in Table 3. Completed exposure pathways for the site-related chemicals include on-site and off-site surface soil, off-site sediments, ambient air,and the waste piles. Potential exposure pathways are shown in Table 4.

Groundwater samples showed iron levels were greater than the USEPA secondary drinking waterstandard of 0.3 milligrams per liter. Secondary standards are non-enforceable guidelines forchemicals that may cause staining or affect taste. The four groundwater wells on the site are usedstrictly for non-contact cooling water. Residents of East St. Louis use municipal water.

A possible source of exposure to contaminants is at or near the discharge of the storm sewer intoSchoenberger Creek. The levels of iron and manganese are elevated at the discharge points, butconsumption of creek water is highly unlikely. The creek is in an area that has few residents and isnot readily accessible. Surface water on the site was not evaluated because the site is fenced and aguard is posted at the gate. Workers would not be likely to contact the on-site surface water.

Toxicological Evaluation

Children are a sensitive sub-population, so special consideration is given to potential exposures tochildren in our toxicological evaluation. To estimate exposure, IDPH assumed that children andadults off the site and workers on the site could be exposed to chemicals of interest. IDPH assumedthat residents could be exposed to the highest levels of chemicals of interest in off-site surface soiland sediments 10 months per year by ingestion, dermal contact, and inhalation. Workers could beexposed to chemicals on the site 5 days per week, 50 weeks per year.

The estimated exposure doses were compared with health guidelines for non-cancer health effects.Cancer risks were estimated for those chemicals that are known or suspected carcinogens. Thecancer risk for the PAHs was calculated by converting each of the suspected carcinogenic PAHs totheir equivalent concentration of benzo(a)pyrene. These equivalents were then added together andused to estimate health risks for exposure to PAHs.

From these scenarios, IDPH found no non-cancer health hazards and no apparent increased cancerrisk due to exposure to on-site and off-site contamination. The soils on and off the site have beenvisibly contaminated with iron oxide pigments from Pfizer, but the iron itself is not a health hazard.

IDPH did not evaluate exposure to airborne dust because of a lack of sampling data. The primaryhazard for exposure to dust relates to the size and concentration of respirable particles. Additionaldata need to be collected to determine the concentration of dust in the air.


Area residents petitioned this public health assessment because of their concern about exposure tosite-related chemicals. IDPH attended a public meeting held October 14, 1998, by Project Hope andthe University of Missouri St. Louis Environmental Justice Initiative to explain the healthassessment process and to obtain public health concerns about the site. Additional community healthconcerns were collected by volunteers. About 40 persons voiced their concerns regardingenvironmental contamination in the neighborhoods surrounding Pfizer. Some concerns includedissues that were not related to Pfizer, such as drinking water.

Another meeting was held on November 27, 2000 by Project Hope and the University of MissouriSt. Louis Environmental Justice Initiative to report their findings including the results of the twentysoil samples collected in the Emerson Park area. An IDPH representative was available to answerhealth related questions at the meeting. Approximately 25 residents attended this meeting. Thehealth concerns voiced at this meeting were similar to those voiced at the October 1998 meeting.

Community health concerns identified from the public meetings and written comments received after the meetings included:

  1. The airborne dust settles out of the air onto cars and into our houses. Is exposure to airborne dust a health hazard?
  2. The red dust that is in the air is from iron oxide pigments produced at the plant. Dust of thiscomposition or chemical makeup is not toxic through inhalation. The health effectsassociated with breathing the dust would most likely be the same as those for breathing otherdust particles of similar size and would depend on how small the particles are and how deepthey are taken into the lung. Currently, neither the amount of dust in the air nor its particle size is known.

  3. We smell odors coming from the site. Are these harmful to my health?
  4. IDPH does not know the source of the odors coming from the site. At one time, coal-firedboilers produced smoke and presumably odors. These were replaced with natural gas-firedboilers, which would not be expected to produce noticeable odors.

  5. The soil around the site is red. Aren't we being exposed to these contaminants in soil?
  6. The soil surrounding the site is contaminated with iron oxide pigments from years ofoperations at Pfizer. The iron levels in the soil on and off the site are greater thanbackground levels. No health guidelines exist for iron in soil, but our bodies require a certain amount of iron to remain healthy. The soil near the site also contains lower levels of inorganic chemicals such as barium, cadmium, and arsenic. The off-site soil samplescollected by IDPH and Integrity Engineering indicate that the levels of inorganic chemicals in the soil do not represent a health hazard to residents.

  7. Are vegetables from my garden safe to eat?
  8. Eating vegetables grown in soil near the Pfizer plant is not expected to cause adverse health effects. Deposition of the red dust, iron oxide, on leafy vegetables would not pose a health risk. IDPH routinely recommends that all garden produce be washed before consumption.

  9. The drinking water sometimes has an odor to it. Is it safe to drink?
  10. The source of the odors in the drinking water is not known. All area residents use themunicipal water supply for East St. Louis. Public water supplies are required to monitor forspecific contaminants. If the water contained contamination at levels above standards, thewater company would have to let you know. The municipal water company should becontacted regarding odor, taste, and discoloration problems with the drinking water.


IDPH recognizes that children are especially sensitive to some contaminants. For this reason, IDPHincluded children when evaluating exposures to contaminants near the Pfizer facility. Children arethe most sensitive population considered in this health assessment; however, children are notcurrently being exposed to chemicals from the site at sufficient levels to cause adverse health effects.


IDPH concludes that the Pfizer, Inc., site in East St. Louis, Illinois, poses no apparent public healthhazard for exposure to area soil. This conclusion is based on the fact that estimated exposure to thehighest levels of contaminants detected during environmental sampling would not cause adversehealth effects. Workers and residents living in neighborhoods adjacent to the site are being exposedto airborne particulates from the site, but no air data exist to evaluate the exposure. Because of thelack of air monitoring data, the air pathway poses an indeterminant public health hazard.


IDPH recommends that the composition and particle size of the airborne dust be measured inneighborhoods near Pfizer. IDPH will contact the IEPA Bureau of Air to determine if ambient airmonitoring can be conducted in this area. If so, IDPH will approach the community for assistance inconducting air monitoring in the Summer or Fall of 2001. Residents should contact the IEPA Bureau of Air to report odors coming from Pfizer.



David R. Webb
Environmental Toxicologist
Illinois Department of Public Health


Ken Runkle
Environmental Toxicologist
Illinois Department of Public Health

ATSDR Regional Representative

Louise Fabinski
Office of Assistant Administrator

ATSDR Technical Project Officers

Gail Godfrey
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Steve Inserra
Division of Health Studies

Kris Larson
Division of Health Education and Promotion


This Pfizer, Inc. Public Health Assessment was prepared by the Illinois Department of Public Healthunder 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 begun.

Roberta Erlwein for
Gail D. Godfrey
Technical Project Officer
Superfund Site Assessment Branch (SSAB)
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC)

The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this health consultation and concurs with its findings.

Richard E. Gillig


  1. Letter from Roger Rader, Harcross Pigments, to IEPA. December 22, 1997

  2. Letter from Roger Rader, Pfizer Plant Manager, to Larry Estep, IEPA. August 5, 1987.

  3. IEPA. Draft: April 1998 Site Team Evaluation Prioritization Report. 1999.

  4. IEPA. Preliminary Site Assessment for Pfizer Chemical. 1984.

  5. Hazardous Waste Permit Application, Pfizer Chemical. 1981.

  6. St. Louis Community Environmental Justice Project, Handbook for Emmerson Park Area. Prepared by the Public Policy Research Center University of Missouri-St. Louis. March 20, 2000.

  7. Final Report for University of Missouri - St. Louis and Project Hope, St. Louis, Missouri. Integrity Engineering, Inc. March 2000.

  8. Conversation with Jerome King, USEPA, Gateway Coordinator, October, 14, 1998.

  9. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Public Health Assessment GuidanceManual. Atlanta, Ga., 1992.

  10. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological Profile for Arsenic(Draft). Atlanta, Ga., 1991

  11. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological Profile for Barium.Atlanta, Ga., 1992.

  12. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological Profile for Cadmium(Draft). Atlanta, Ga., 1991.

  13. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological Profile for PAHs. Atlanta, Ga., 1995.


Approximate Location of Pfizer, Inc.
Figure 1. Approximate Location of Pfizer, Inc.

Sample Location Map
Figure 2. Sample Location Map


Table 1.

Chemicals of Interest in Soil and Sediment at Pfizer, Inc. (concentrations in parts per million)
Soil Sediment Comparison Values
Off-site Background On the site Off the site Off the site Value Source
Sampling Point X101 X102 X103 X104 X105 X106 X107 X108 X109 X201 X202
Benz(a)anthracene 0.071J ND ND 0.23J 1.2J 0.360J 0.970J ND 0.820J ND 4.300J NV NV
Chrysene 0.099J ND ND 0.30J 1.3J 0.380J 1.000J ND 1.000J ND 4.500J NV NV
Benzo(b)fluoranthene 0.150J ND ND 0.26J 1.7J 0.540J 1.300J ND 1.400J ND 4.400J NV NV
Benzo(k)fluoranthene 0.048J ND ND ND 0.73J 0.340J 0.360J ND ND ND 2.200J NV NV
Benzo(a)pyrene 0.071J ND ND ND 0.98J 0.340J 0.830J ND 0.760J ND 3.100J 0.1 CREG
Indeno(1,2,3 cd)pyrene 0.061J ND ND ND 0.74J 0.330J 0.440J ND ND ND 1.700J NV NV
Benzo(g,h,i)perylene 0.085J ND ND ND 0.53J 0.320J 0.370J ND ND ND 1.400J NV NV
Arsenic 3.9 43.6 41.9 10.2 5.6 7.2 7.4 26.7 1.4 3.3 6.9 20 CEMEG
Barium 316 3040 2550 2580 3730 16400 6020 7900 9890 197 387 4000 RMEG
Cadmium 1.7 4.8 4.5 8.1 5.5 15.4 4.7 8.3 14.1 2.2 9.3 10 CEMEG
Iron 18200 NT NT 199000 NT NT 70200 303000 NT 18900 43900 NV NV

NV - No comparison value listed for this chemical
ND - Not detected
NT - Not tested
J - Estimated Value
blank boxes indicate that the level of the chemical was less than the laboratory detection limit
CREG - Cancer Risk Evaluation Guideline (for children)
CEMEG - Chronic Environmental Media Evaluation Guideline (for children)
RMEG - Reference Dose Media Evaluation Guideline (for children)

Table 2.

Inorganic Chemicals of Interest in Soils from Residential Yards and Vacant Lots near Pfizer, Inc. (concentrations in parts per million)
Concentration of Inorganic
Compound in Soil
Comparison Values
Background Range Value Source
Sampling Point X101 Minimum Maximum Mean
Illinois Department of Public Health Samples
Arsenic 3.9 1.7 33.3 13.4 20 CEMEG
Barium 316 264 2160 718 4000 RMEG
Cadmium 1.7 1.5 8.5 4.2 10 CEMEG
Iron 18200 16830 67700 28574 NV NV
Integrity Engineering Samples
Barium 316 129 858 349 4000 RMEG
Iron 18200 11900 25800 17090 NV NV

NV - No comparison value listed for this chemical
CEMEG - Chronic Environmental Media Evaluation Guideline (for children)
RMEG - Reference Dose Media Evaluation Guideline (for children)

Table 3.

Completed exposure pathways
Pathway Name Source Medium Exposure Point Exposure Route Receptor Population Time of Exposure Exposure Activities Estimated Number Exposed Chemicals
On-site surface soil Waste piles
Site operations
On-site soil
Surface soil On-site soil Ingestion
Employees and visitors Past
Contacting contaminated soil 50 Tables
& 2
Off-site surface soil Waste piles
Site operations
On-site soil
Off-site soil
Surface soil Yards
Playground users
Playing in & working with contaminated soil 800 Tables
& 2
Sediments Contaminated Soil Sediments Children playing in Schoenberger Creek Ingestion Children ingesting sediments from Schoenberger Creek Past
Playing in creek sediments 30 Tables
& 2
Ambient Air Waste piles
Site operations
Contaminated soil
Air Residents closest to the site Inhalation Nearby residents Past
Breathing 1000 Tables
& 2
Waste Piles Waste piles Waste pile Employees Ingestion
On-site Workers Past
Working with the waste piles 10 Tables
& 2

Table 4.

Potential exposure pathways
Pathway Name: Source Medium Exposure Point Exposure Route Receptor Population Time of Exposure Exposure Activities Estimated Potential Number Exposed Chemicals
Private Wells Waste pile
Contaminated soil
Ground-water Residents near the site Ingestion Residents drinking contaminated well water Past
Drinking contaminated well water 75 Tables
& 2



Environmental Media Evaluation Guides (EMEGs) are developed for chemicals based on theirtoxicity, frequency of occurrence at National Priority List (NPL) sites, and potential for humanexposure. They are derived to protect the most sensitive populations and are not action levels, butrather comparison values. They do not consider carcinogenic effects, chemical interactions, multipleroute exposure, or other media-specific routes of exposure, and are very conservative concentrationvalues designed to protect sensitive members of the population.

Reference Dose Media Evaluation Guides (RMEGs) are another type of comparison value derivedto protect the most sensitive populations. They do not consider carcinogenic effects, chemicalinteractions, multiple route exposure, or other media-specific routes of exposure, and are veryconservative concentration values designed to protect sensitive members of the population.

Cancer Risk Evaluation Guides (CREGs) are estimated contaminant concentrations based on aprobability of one excess cancer in a million persons exposed to a chemical over a lifetime. Theseare also very conservative values designed to protect sensitive members of the population.

Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) have been established by USEPA for public water suppliesto reduce the chances of adverse health effects from contaminated drinking water. These standardsare well below levels for which health effects have been observed and take into account the financialfeasibility of achieving specific contaminant levels. These are enforceable limits that public watersupplies must meet.

Lifetime Health Advisories for drinking water (LTHAs) have been established by USEPA fordrinking water and are the concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is not expected tocause any adverse non-carcinogenic effects over a lifetime of exposure. These are conservative values that incorporate a margin of safety.

Table of Contents The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

A-Z Index

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #