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EPA and Partners Celebrate Reduced Lead Exposure in Children; Blood lead levels in children around Tar Creek site in Okla. greatly reduced

Release Date: 10/15/2014
Contact Information: Jennah Durant or Joe Hubbard, R6Press@epa.gov or 214 665-2200

DALLAS – (Oct. 15, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its partners in Oklahoma are celebrating a significant achievement in children’s health: Since 1997, blood lead levels of children in Ottawa County and Tar Creek have drastically declined, with 0% of children in these areas showing elevated levels by 2013.

“The children of Tar Creek and Ottawa County are healthier today because of the teamwork and dedication of many public health organizations,” said Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “I congratulate this team on improving children’s health today, and protecting future generations from further harm from lead exposure.”

Children in these areas of Oklahoma had historically been exposed to high levels of lead from former mining operations, especially around the Tar Creek Superfund site. In 1997, 21.5 percent of children living near Tar Creek showed elevated blood levels, defined as readings above 10 g/dl (micrograms per deciliter). For the same year, 12.61 percent of children in Ottawa Co., OK, showed elevated levels.

Since then, through EPA, state, and tribal cleanup activities, lead-contaminated soil has been removed from 2,887 residential yards and public properties in the area. With additional funding from EPA, the Ottawa County Health Department has worked to increase community awareness about lead poisoning prevention and the importance of blood lead screening for children. These activities have achieved striking results, with 0 percent of area children showing elevated levels in 2013.

Children six years old and younger are most vulnerable to the effects of lead because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults, and their nervous systems are more sensitive to lead’s damaging effects. Even low levels in a child’s blood can lead to behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, and anemia. Children can be exposed to lead by putting their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths, inhaling lead dust from lead-based paint or contaminated soil, or consuming food or water containing lead.

EPA recognizes the month of October as Children’s Health Month. During this time of year, we make a special effort to raise awareness about the unique vulnerability of kids. Children are different from adults in how they interact with their environment and how their health may be affected by these interactions. These difference make children especially vulnerable to environmental hazards. One in seven children in the US lives with asthma every day. These numbers clearly show that air quality impacts children’s health. Our goal is that by 2030, the EPA’s actions will: avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits.

For more about children’s health, visit: www.epa.gov/children

For more about EPA’s activities in Oklahoma, visit: https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/epa-oklahoma

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