A federal agency is offering free testing for lead in blood and arsenic in urine for Anaconda residents next weekend.
A century of copper smelting left soils in the Anaconda area contaminated with heavy metals, so researchers are asking: “Are exposures to arsenic and lead at levels currently that could adversely affect people’s health?”
David Dorian of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry posed that question in July at Anaconda High School when the agency announced plans to initiate the testing.
Long-term arsenic exposure, in particular, can lead to heightened cancer risk. ATSDR previously looked at lead and arsenic levels in Anaconda in 2007. That time, they found negative health effects to be unlikely in the long term, and said remediation efforts in the area were working.
But a small, peer-reviewed academic study published in late August found that between 2000 and 2015, residents around Butte and Anaconda faced nearly 20 percent higher death rates from cancer than did all other counties in Montana. However, the study noted, remediation efforts at the superfund sites also likely contributed to a 3 to 5 percent reduction in mortality each of those years.
The Montana Standard reports the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services took issue with the way that study attained its numbers, claiming cancer rates around Anaconda and Butte are about the same as the rest of the state.
Next weekend’s testing will provide a snapshot of continued exposure in Anaconda.
It will take place from Friday, September 14 through Sunday, September 16 at the Anaconda Community Service Center, and the ATSDR hopes to test as many as 200 community members.
For more information about the Anaconda Copper Smelter Superfund Site, contact David Dorian, ATSDR Region 8 at (303) 312-7011 and Ddorian@cdc.gov or CDC-INFO at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or information about ATSDR visit www.atsdr.cdc.gov.