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Investigators To Report On Anaconda's Exposure To Lead And Arsenic

The Washoe Smelter Stack in Anaconda, MT.
Nora Saks
The Washoe Smelter Stack in Anaconda.

Federal public health investigators that study risks at Superfund sites are coming back to Anaconda this week to discuss the results of a study examining locals’ exposure to lead and arsenic. Health officials are expected to report those exposure levels are normal.

Some residents in Anaconda are worried that despite the ongoing Superfund cleanup of historic smelter pollution there, they’re still being exposed to metals in their environment.

In late 2018, in response to the community’s concern, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) agreed to do what they call an “exposure investigation.” Specialists collected blood and urine samples from 367 residents, and tested them for lead and arsenic. Now, they’re ready to share the results of their study. David Dorian is a health assessor with ATSDR.

"Our main finding was that the blood lead levels and urine arsenic levels in the residents that we tested were comparable to the general U.S. population," Dorian said.

But it’s more complicated than that. So this week, ATSDR staff are returning to the Smelter City to discuss the specifics of their investigation at a public meeting.

"There’s more detail that’s involved about how we arrived at that conclusion and specifics about how these individual contaminants compare, and what kind of recommendations we’re making so that the community can continue to reduce lead and arsenic values," Dorian said.

The ATSDR meeting is at the Anaconda High School Auditorium on Wednesday Oct. 30 at 6 p.m.

Read the full report on the Anaconda lead and arsenic exposure investigation.

Nora Saks is a reporter and producer based in Butte, MT.
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