Wyden, Merkley, Blumenauer Ask Federal Officials for Immediate Help Responding to Airborne Heavy Metals Concern in Portland
Washington – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer today wrote federal health officials asking for their agencies’ immediate assistance responding to the public health risks identified by the discovery of hotspots of dangerously high levels of airborne heavy metals in Portland.
The three lawmakers’ letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) follows a meeting that Wyden, Merkley and Blumenauer had on Feb. 18 in Portland with officials from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The three lawmakers heard at that briefing about Portland hotspots that are dozens of times above the air-safety benchmark levels established by Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality.
“We request your immediate assistance in responding to the public health risks identified by the discovery of hotspots of dangerously high levels of airborne heavy metals in Portland, Oregon,’’ the lawmakers wrote CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden and ATSDR Director Dr. Patrick Breysse. “These levels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and other toxins are thought to be linked to emissions from manufacturing facilities located in densely populated urban areas and in close proximity to multiple schools. Our communities are rightfully concerned about this situation.”
Wyden, Merkley and Blumenauer asked in their letter that the CDC and ATSDR deploy a team of public health professionals to Oregon to work with the State, Multnomah County, and the EPA, and others to better understand the health effects associated with exposure to the identified hazardous pollutants.
“As you know, air tests around one manufacturing facility in Southeast Portland revealed levels of cadmium and arsenic that are, respectively, 49 and 159 times the air-safety benchmark levels established by Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ),” they wrote. “More recently, updated contamination maps show several other hotspots for arsenic and cadmium, as well as elevated levels of lead and nickel throughout the Portland metro area.
“Immediate assessment of the extent of these pollutants and their associated health risks is urgently needed. There is a concerning lack of data on the localized concentration of these contaminants and the length of time residents may have been exposed,” they wrote. “Please collaborate with the State of Oregon and Multnomah County’s efforts to conduct exposure screenings for residents, perform soil tests, establish a centralized system for tracking health incidents and test results, better understand methods for soil decontamination and address other public health management needs.”
To read the entire letter, please go here.
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