Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tacoma Smelter Plume – how to reduce exposure to the legacy pollutants

The Tacoma Smelter Plume (TSP) was caused by a copper smelter run by the company Asarco  in Tacoma. For about 100 years the industrial site created air pollution containing lead and arsenic over 1,000 square miles of the Puget Sound Basin. Lead and arsenic are known as “legacy pollutants” because they remain in the environment long after they were introduced. The TSP area includes areas in Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Thurston counties where there are higher than normal levels of arsenic and lead in the soil as the pollution settled.

Because many Thurston County residents live in an area affected by the Tacoma Smelter Plume, it’s important to stay alert about arsenic and lead in our soil. In order to reduce exposure, take action to minimize dust and dirt in your home.

  •  Keep your home clean and control dust as best you can. Wipe dust with a damp cloth (microfiber cloths work great!) and vacuum weekly.
  • Wash hands thoroughly when coming inside, before eating or preparing food, and after using the bathroom.
  • Wash children’s hands, toys, pacifiers, etc. often. Children spend more time closer to the ground and put more items in their mouths so they have higher
    exposure rates. Children are also more vulnerable to exposures to toxics because they are still growing. 
  • Eat a diet rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin C to decrease absorption of lead. If your body has the nutrients it needs, it is less likely to absorb toxics substances.
  •  Remove shoes at the door. Designate a pair of house shoes or slippers if wearing shoes inside is important to you.
  • Wash produce well to remove dirt, dust and bacteria.
  •  Bathe and brush pets often to reduce the amount of dirt they bring into the home.
  • You can get your soil tested by a state-certified laboratory.

About arsenic
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is normally present in water, soil, dust, air, and food but in small amounts. Exposure can happen through eating or drinking tainted food and water, ingesting mud, soil, or dirt, and breathing in dust or fumes.
For the most part, unless you have had prolonged or intense exposure, arsenic
shouldn’t affect your day to day life too much. However, it is a good idea to play it safe.

About lead
Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is found in the soil. While it does have value in creating items such as batteries and x-ray shields, it is toxic to humans. Exposure can happen through lead based paints (in homes built before 1978), contaminated soil, and some imported goods.

Lead exposure is especially harmful to children, pregnant women, and seniors. It is toxic to the brain. Lead poisoning in growing children is proven to harm the growth and development of their brain. When lead is absorbed into the body, it stays in the body and builds up. That is why there is no known safe level of lead exposure. Because of this, making sure that you limit lead exposure for you and your family is as much as possible is very important!

For more information visit the Washington State Department of Ecology’s web page on the Health Effects of Lead and Arsenic.

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