Arsenic and cadmium air pollution found in SE and North PDX

Potentially unsafe levels of arsenic and cadmium have been detected in the air of Southeast Portland. The primary source was been localized to a glass production facility that has operated there for ~40 years. They have since terminated use of these metals in their process, so there is no current risk of continued airborne exposure from this source. A similar finding has been localized to a glass production facility in North Portland, who has also suspended use of cadmium (they don’t use arsenic).

Dr. Fred Berman addresses  questions about Arsenic and Cadmium air pollution.
Dr. Fred Berman addresses questions about Arsenic and Cadmium air pollution.

At the concentrations measured, the primary health concern is for increased risk of skin, lung and bladder cancer, and lung cancer and kidney damage, for arsenic and cadmium, respectively. This concern is heightened, because several schools and residences are located in the Southeast Portland location, and the actual magnitude and duration of exposure to these metals is still being determined. DEQ is in the process of assessing the geographical extent of contamination, which will help identify areas of potential exposure and risk.

I attended a community open house, held February 9th, organized by Oregon Public Health, Oregon DEQ, and Multnomah County, to address public concerns about the situation as it is currently understood. Many thoughtful and intelligent questions and comments were brought forth by community members, and although I felt good about my ability to address the facts, there was little I felt I could do to address the fear expressed by many. Hopefully, as the situation becomes more clearly defined, we will better understand the actual health risk that exists. Stay tuned….this issue will be ongoing for some time.

For more information, visit the Oregon Health Authority and DEQ webpages.

2 responses to “Arsenic and cadmium air pollution found in SE and North PDX

  1. Hey, why is there no additional blame placed upon the regulators of the regulators for the state, the legislators. The legislature sets the whole tone for anti-investigatory attitude by the state agencies responsible for water quality and public health protection??? The legislators dictate very carefully just what gets, or does NOT get looked at by sampling, analysis, and assessment for public health… by insisting that the agencies NOT make waves by finding more problems needing to be fixed. They will not fund sampling and assessment if the agencies propose doing so. The legislature sees such essential work as being inherently politically and fiscally subversive, yet that work is essential for providing for public health. It is no wonder that we are in such an expensive and tragic mess harming untold numbers of citizens and costing society a vast quantity of money. Monitoring is essential to inform the science and the ability of government to function in a logical way for protecting its citizens. To the degree the legislators are opposed to supporting this essential monitoring, we have to pay over and over again off into the future for the mistakes we do not detect as they are happening. Vote for people that understand this kind of logic. Maybe the problem is due to something in the water that the legislature drinks. Lead is known to prevent exposed organisms from realizing the consequences of their actions.

    1. Thank you for your comments. This issue has clearly, and understandably, resulted in some very intense feelings. Hopefully, as we learn more about this situation, we will better understand the actual health risks that exist so that the current situation can be resolved and future situations such as this can be prevented.

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