Much has changed in Idaho’s Silver Valley since the 1970s, when children living near the Bunker Hill Smelter complex averaged 65 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.
The rates were among the nation’s highest. Blood-lead averages have declined dramatically over the years in conjunction with the smelter’s closure and a remediation program that replaces contaminated soil with clean dirt, said Jerry Cobb, a Panhandle Health District program manager.
The district conducts blood-lead screening programs for Silver Valley children each summer. More than 1,200 screenings have been done.
Last year, 89 Silver Valley children had their blood-lead levels tested. Of the children tested, the highest reading was 12 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood; the minimum was 1.4 micrograms.
When children have elevated blood lead levels, the district helps families identify where their children are exposed to lead, so they can reduce the risk, Cobb said.