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  1. The Phelps-Dodge Smelter site has probably contributed to lead contamination of off-site soils. This site posed a public health hazard for people living in Douglas and Agua Prieta because of past, and possibly present long-term exposure of children to these lead-contaminated soils.

  2. Chronic ingestion of lead-contaminated soils during normal hand-to-mouth activity may have contributed to elevated blood lead levels and which may have impaired learning in children. Lead paint and other sources of lead exposure also exist in both Douglas and Agua Prieta.
  1. In the past, chronic exposures to emissions from the Phelps-Dodge smelter could have increased the risk for adverse health affects in Douglas and Agua Prieta residents. When the smelter was operating, chronic exposure to lead in the air was an additional source of lead exposure for children. Chronic inhalation of sulfur dioxide and inhalable particulate matter has been associated with respiratory problems and may particularly affect sensitive subpopulations, including children and people with respiratory ailments (e.g., asthma).

  2. Workers involved with demolition of the smelter and removal activities in 1990 who did not use respiratory protection were exposed to elevated levels of asbestos fibers. Those workers who did not wear appropriate respiratory protection and worked at the site for a year or more are at a low increased risk for lung cancer.
Health Outcome Data
  1. Available health outcome data indicate that, in 1975 and 1985, Douglas children had blood lead levels that, on the average, exceeded current CDC-recommended levels.

  2. Available health outcome data were insufficient to evaluate the potential environmental impact of site-related contaminants on rates of lung cancer, spontaneous abortion, birth defects, and learning disabilities.
  1. Contaminants found on site were also detected in municipal well water off site and in Whitewater Draw, but concentrations were not elevated enough to cause adverse health effects. Concerns over groundwater quality can be greater in Agua Prieta, since the flow of both surface and groundwater is from north (Douglas) to south (Agua Prieta).

  2. ATSDR encountered the following data inadequacies during the conduct of this public health assessment:

    • lack of current environmental data showing levels of lead and other metals in residential surface soils;
    • lack of sampling of indoor dusts for lead;
    • lack of data on current blood lead levels in Douglas and Pirtleville children; and
    • lack of information about the leachability of heavy metals in surface soil and slag to groundwater, and monitoring data for off-site groundwater and private wells.


A. Recommendations and HARP Statement

Cease/Reduce Exposure Recommendations

  1. Educate the community about all sources of environmental lead exposure and methods for reducing exposures.
  2. Educate local health professionals about assessing all sources of lead exposure and about the signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children.

Site Characterization Recommendations

  1. Monitor off-site soils, indoor dust, and airborne particulate matter for metals in Douglas and Agua Prieta.
  2. Continue to monitor heavy metals in Douglas municipal well water.
  3. Monitor off-site private wells for heavy metals.

Additional Health Information Recommendations

  1. Conduct a communitywide blood lead screening program for children in Douglas.
  2. Appropriate screening of local children on the Mexican side of the border with blood lead tests should be conducted.
  3. Continue to work with Pan American Health Organization and Mexico to determine need for evaluation (i.e., to conduct a health assessment) in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico.

Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) Recommendations

In accordance with the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 as amended, ATSDR and the State of Arizona evaluated the Phelps-Dodge Smelter site for appropriate health follow-up activities. The data and information developed in the Phelps-Dodge Smelter Site Public Health Assessment have been evaluated for appropriate public health actions. Because people have been exposed in the past to lead-contaminated soils, and because exposures are likely to continue, HARP has determined that two follow-up actions are indicated. First, a community health education program is needed for residents of Douglas. Second, a long-term blood lead testing program is appropriate for children in Douglas, as outlined in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guide to Preventing Lead Poisoning in Children.

B. Public Health Actions

The Public Health Action Plan (PHAP) for the Phelps-Dodge site contains a description of actions to be taken by ATSDR and/or ADHS at and in the vicinity of the site subsequent to the completion of this public health assessment. The purpose of the PHAP is to ensure that this public health assessment not only identifies public health hazards, but provides a plan of action designed to mitigate and prevent adverse human health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment. Included, is a commitment on the part of ATSDR/ADHS to follow up on this plan to ensure that it is implemented.

  1. The Division of Health Education will provide environmental health education for the community to assist them in understanding and preventing possible adverse health outcomes associated with exposure to hazardous substances. The program will be implemented during the public comment period of this public health assessment.
  2. ATSDR will continue to coordinate and assist as needed with ADHS in implementing the lung cancer mortality study involving Douglas.
  3. ATSDR will coordinate with the appropriate environmental agencies and ADHS to develop plans to implement the site characterization and blood lead screening recommendations contained in this public health assessment.
  4. ATSDR will coordinate with EPA, Region IX and their ongoing site investigation of the Phelps-Dodge site, and in implementing the site characterization recommendations in this public health assessment.
  5. The Border Ecology Project and the county sanitarian have been actively pursuing environmental issues in Agua Prieta.
  6. As discussed at the Binational Health Coalition Meeting in August 11,1995, there are plans to develop local capacity to test for lead in Sonora, Mexico.


Lynelle Phillips, RN, MPH
Environmental Health Scientist
Community Health Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

R.J. Dutton, PhD
Community Health Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Maureen Kolasa, RN, MPH
Environmental Health Scientist
Petition Response Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Maria Georgina Perez, B.A.
Oak Ridge Intern
Petition Response Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation


William Nelson
Region IX Representative
Regional Operations Branch

  1. City of Douglas Permit File, ADEQ Office of Waste Programs, Phoenix, AZ, 1991.

  2. Paisano-Hydromet Permit File, ADEQ Office of Waste Programs, Phoenix, AZ, 1970-1987.

  3. Annual State Air Quality Monitoring Reports, Office of Air Quality, ADEQ, Phoenix, AZ, 1970-1987.

  4. Selected Reports on Douglas, AZ, maintained by the Office of Risk Assessment, ADEQ, Phoenix, AZ, 1991.

  5. Administrative File, Phelps-Dodge Smelter, Douglas, AZ, Arizona Industrial Commission Division of Occupational Safety and Health, Phoenix, AZ, 1991.

  6. Surface Water Monitoring Database for Whitewater Draw, ADEQ Office of Water Quality, Tucson Field Office, Tucson, AZ, 1987-1991.

  7. Douglas 7.5 Minute Quadrangle, USGS, Reston, VA, 1978.

  8. United States Census Bureau, 1990 Census of the Population, Washington D.C., 1991.

  9. Geologic Highway Map, Southern Rocky Mountain Region, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Tulsa, OK, 1990.

  10. Personal Communication with Dick Kamp, Border Ecology Project, Bisbee, AZ, September 1991.

  11. Personal Communication with Fran Boyd, Cochise County Health Department, Douglas, AZ, September 1991.

  12. Personal communication with Norm Peterson, ADHS, Office of Risk Assessment, Phoenix, AZ, September 1991.

  13. Bisbee Observer. State to inspect asbestos work at Phelps-Dodge's smelter, January 30, 1990.

  14. Personal Communication, School Health Nurse, Cochise County Health Department, September 1990.

  15. Arizona Republic. Douglas faces growing problem of dust generated in Mexico, March 26, 1989.

  16. Baker, EL, et al. A nationwide survey of heavy metal absorption in children living near primary copper, lead, and zinc smelters. Am J Epidemiol 1977;106: 261-272.

  17. Greaves, W, et al. Relationship of lung cancer and distance of residence from smelter stack effluent: Report to smelter environmental research association, College of Medicine, University of Utah, November 1979.

  18. Environmental Fate and Transport of Arsenic, Benzene, Cadmium, Lead, and Nickel. Hazardous Substances Data Base, 1991.

  19. Avila, MH, et al. Lead-glazed ceramics as major determinants of blood lead levels in Mexican women. Environ Health Perspect 1991;94.

  20. California Department of Health Services. Health alert: Azarcon and greta, 1991.

  21. Centers for Disease Control. Statement on Preventing Lead Poisoning in Children, October 1991.

  22. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Impact on public health of lead-contaminated soil at Superfund sites. Atlanta: ATSDR, October 1991.

  23. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for lead. Atlanta: ATSDR, June 1990.

  24. Klaassen, CD, Amdur MO, and Doull J, eds. Casarett and Doull's Toxicology, The Basic Science of Poisons, 3rd ed., New York, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1986.

  25. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for arsenic. Atlanta: ATSDR, March 1989.

  26. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Public health assessment guidance manual. Atlanta: ATSDR, March 1992.

  27. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Comparative climatic data for the United States, 1990, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC.

  28. Border Ecology Project. Specific environmental areas of concern of environmental health committee in the Agua Prieta - Nacozari- Cananea region. January 1991.

  29. Notes from Pirtleville/Douglas Community Meeting, January 1992.

  30. Personal Communication, Cochise County Health Department, January 1992.

  31. Plog, BA, et al. Fundamentals of Industrial Hygiene, 3rd ed. National Safety Council, Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data, 87-60256, 1988.

  32. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Trip Report, Phelps-Dodge Smelter, Douglas, AZ. September 23, 1991.

  33. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Trip Report, Phelps-Dodge Smelter, Douglas, AZ. April 7, 1992.

  34. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for asbestos. Atlanta: ATSDR, December 1990.

  35. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for benzene. Atlanta: ATSDR, May 1989.

  36. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for cadmium. Atlanta: ATSDR, February 1992.

  37. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for copper. Atlanta: ATSDR, December 1990.

  38. Pope, et al. Daily mortality and PM10 pollution in Utah Valley. Arch Environ Health 1992;47:211-217.

  39. Schwartz. Air pollution and the duration of acute respiratory symptoms. Arch Environ Health 1992;47:166-122.

  40. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Memorandum to Lynelle Neufer re: Health Outcome Data Evaluation for Phelps-Dodge, Douglas, Arizona. September 25, 1992.

  41. USGS. Maps Showing Groundwater in the Douglas Basin Area Cochise County, Arizona-1978, Sheets 1 and 2.

  42. EPA. Attachment 4. PM10 Data Summary-1992.

  43. CDC. Preventing Lead Poisoning in Young Children. October 1992.

  44. Selected Reports on the Phelps-Dodge site in Douglas, Arizona maintained by the EPA, Region IX. 1973-1994.

  45. EPA. Revised Interim Soil Lead Guidance for CERCLA Sites and RCRA Corrective Action Facilities. July 14, 1994.

  46. Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Memo to Max Howie, Chief, RIMB, ATSDR. September 8, 1994.

  47. Arizona Department of Health Services. Memo to Lynelle Phillips, DHAC, ATSDR. August 18, 1994.

  48. Public Law 96-510. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) as amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986. December 11, 1980.

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