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ATSDR Press Room

ATSDR Releases Report to Congress on Exposure to Lead at Tar Creek Superfund Site in Ottawa County, Oklahoma

Ottawa County, Miami, Oklahoma

Monday, November 08, 2004

Average blood lead levels and the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels - at or above 10 micrograms per deciliter - decreased among children aged 1-5 years who were living in the Tar Creek, Ottawa County, Okla., area and who were tested for lead during 1995-2003.

However, people who live in Tar Creek, especially residents of Picher and Cardin, may still be exposed to lead from mine tailings, or chat, because they may live close to chat piles, mill and mine residues, and flotation ponds.

The findings come from a review of data from programs that monitor the blood lead levels of children who live in the area and environmental data on the levels of lead in the soil. They were released today by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in a report to Congress.

Mine tailings and lead-based paint are sources of lead exposure potentially contributing to the elevated blood lead levels. Children can be exposed to these sources of lead primarily through contact with household dust and soil.

The major sources of exposure at Tar Creek are residential area soil and mine tailings. Lead in paint is another source, and houses with lead paint are present throughout the county.

ATSDR staff reviewed blood lead and environmental data including site history and sampling data, to determine the levels of blood lead exposure in children at the site and to identify potential sources and pathways of exposure.

In 1996, 67 out of 215 children, or 31.2%, tested in the Tar Creek area had elevated blood lead levels (above 10 micrograms per deciliter). This number decreased in 2003 when only seven out of 250 children, or 2.8%, tested in the Tar Creek area had elevated blood lead levels. In 2003, this 2.8 percentage and the 3.04 micrograms per deciliter average blood lead level were slightly higher than those of children living in the United States as a whole in 1999 and 2000. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data indicate that among U.S. children aged 1-5 years in 1999-2000, 2.2% had elevated blood lead levels, and the average blood lead level was 2.2 micrograms per deciliter.

ATSDR recommendations from the report include:
  • Continue blood lead screening and lead exposure prevention education.
  • Complete the remediation of residential properties.
  • Assess the risk for lead exposure from using mine tailings (chat) for commercial and residential purposes.
  • Evaluate the health risks for other site-related contaminants and physical hazards.

In 2003, the Senate Appropriations Committee directed ATSDR to evaluate the level of lead poisoning in families, especially children, at the Tar Creek Superfund Site.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) also urged the public health agency and the Oklahoma State Department of Health to identify significant sources of lead that may be contributing to high blood lead levels in children at Tar Creek.

The report will be available for review after Nov. 9 at
Miami Public Library
200 North Main St.
Miami, OK 74354

For more information, community members can contact Regional Representative Jennifer Lyke or Health Communication Specialist LaFreta Dalton, toll-free, at 1-888-422-8737. Callers should refer to the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Ottawa County, Okla. The Report to Congress can be found at

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Related Web Site(s)

ATSDR Tar Creek Site Information
Tar Creek Superfund Site - Ottawa County, OK

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Related PHA & HC For this Press Release

Occurrence Of Selected Health Conditions
Document Date: 9/30/2008 - PHA  [PDF - 1600 KB]

Tar Creek Superfund Site
Document Date: 9/30/2008 - PHA  [PDF - 1300 KB]

Tar Creek
Document Date: 11/21/2006 -   [PDF]

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Related News Releases For Ottawa County, Miami, Oklahoma


Health of Ottawa County Residents Similar to Other Oklahoma Residents Says Report
Release Date: Tuesday, November 21, 2006
The health status of Ottawa County residents is similar to other Oklahoma residents says a public health assessment released today by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

Tar Creek Superfund Site - Federal and State Health Agencies to Discuss Health Findings with Community November 28 and 29
Release Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2006
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) will host public availability sessions November 28 and 29 to discuss findings of the Public Health Assessment, Occurrence of Selected Health Conditions in Ottawa County, Oklahoma.

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