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.