Issue Date: May 3, 2010
Blood Lead Levels Ebb After Hurricanes
The devastating floods in New Orleans brought on by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 managed to deposit clean sediments on top of large areas of the city’s topsoil. In doing so, the storms dramatically altered the amount of lead contamination in the city. According to a new report, overall lead levels in the city’s soil declined by 46%, and that drop was reflected in the blood lead levels of the city’s children (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es100572s). A team led by Sammy Zahran of Colorado State University and Howard W. Mielke of Tulane University analyzed data on the blood of more than 13,000 New Orleans children. The data were collected by the Louisiana Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. The researchers found that children who lived in neighborhoods where the hurricane damage decreased soil lead levels by more than 50% had a 53% drop in blood lead levels. These children’s blood lead levels dropped by 2.28 μg/dL—a significant amount, considering that EPA guidelines define levels over 10 μg/dL as hazardous to children’s health.
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