Cleanup of mining wastes in the most-contaminated part of the Coeur d’Alene Basin appears to be working, Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality chief told state lawmakers today, after a big push to test kids' blood lead levels in the Kellogg area once again this past summer turned up very low rates, with only 1 percent elevated at all. Curt Fransen, DEQ director, said blood-lead levels in children in the Kellogg area were once among the highest ever recorded in the country; now, they’ve dropped to “levels consistent with national averages.”
High blood-lead levels can cause extensive damage in children, including lowered IQ and long-lasting health problems. In the 1970s, children living near the Bunker Hill smelter when it was operating without pollution controls had blood-lead levels averaging 65 micrograms per deciliter. Now, the average level is 2.4 micrograms; just two of the 276 children tested this year had levels of 10 or above. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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