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Questions and Answers

What is ATSDR?

ATSDR is a federal public health agency. Our full name is the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Our mission is to take responsive public health actions to promote healthy and safe environments and to prevent harmful exposures. We work with communities, environmental groups, and local, state and other federal agencies to protect public health.

Why was this area selected?

This Philadelphia community was selected because of the former John T. Lewis/Anzon facility. The facility was demolished in late 1990’s and early 2000’s and replaced by a shopping center following clean up under the state of Pennsylvania Act II Program. Although there is no specific health hazard currently known for the full study area, a limited number of available soil sampling information showed elevated lead levels, and this area provided an opportunity to study urban lead exposures from a variety of sources.

What was the purpose of CDC/ATSDR study at the JT Lewis Site?

The purpose of this research was to determine if young children in the community were exposed to unusual elevated levels of lead; and to develop better ways of identifying lead exposure in young children where they live.

We also looked at levels of lead in the home to see if they can be used to predict the amount of lead in a child’s blood.

This will help public health officials find better ways of determining if this and other communities have been exposed to lead at levels of health concern.

Who and what were tested?

The study team selected a random sample of houses in the area around the JT Lewis Lead Smelter site. When consent was granted from study participants, the team collected environmental samples including: tap water, indoor dust, and outside soil.

Additionally, blood samples were taken from 97 children between 9 months and 6 years old living in participating households. The team also conducted an environmental visual inspection of each home selected.

How long did the study take place?

The study team recruited residents to participate in the study between Tuesday, July 15th and Saturday, July 26th, 2014.

What happened if a child had an elevated blood lead level (BLL)?

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the CDC team leader were notified immediately of children with BLLs greater than or equal to 10 µg/dL, so that proper case management activities could occur.

What agencies and organizations were involved in the study?

CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (NCEH/ATSDR) worked closely with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health on this study.

Local non-governmental organizations were also engaged in the study—New Kensington Community Development Corporation, Olde Richmond Civic Association, Drexel University, Thomas Jefferson University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

How were study results released to the community?

Individual results of the child(ren)’s BLL were mailed to all parents or consenting adults in their preferred language (English or Spanish). A separate results letter providing environmental results was mailed to each participating household.

Preliminary results of the study can be found under the results section

What else is CDC/ATSDR doing in the community near the JT Lewis Site?

CDC/ATSDR continues to help area residents understand the health risks associated with lead and the steps they can take to protect themselves. ATSDR will continue to provide technical scientific assistance to EPA and the local and state health departments.

Is CDC/ATSDR planning a follow up study?

CDC/ATSDR does not currently have plans to conduct additional studies at JT Lewis or other lead smelter sites in the country.

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