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Release of Multi-Agency Report Shows Elevated Lead Levels in New Orleans Soil, Consistent with Historic Levels of Urban Lead

Release Date: 04/04/2006
Contact Information: Dale Kemery, (202) 564-4355 /

(Washington, D.C. - April 4, 2006) EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) released data today showing elevated lead levels in some soil samples in New Orleans.

The lead levels appear to be consistent with historic levels reported in a local university study conducted in New Orleans prior to the hurricane. Nationwide studies of older cities have shown similar findings of elevated lead levels in urban soil. Today's report is part of the continuing post-Katrina monitoring.

Further analyses are underway to try to determine the source of elevated lead at the locations. The state of Louisiana and the New Orleans Health Department as part of their long-standing program to limit lead exposure to residents, is recommending with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) that residents take steps to prevent potential exposure to lead in the area.

In addition to lead, arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene were also detected in some samples. The arsenic results indicated that concentrations are not expected to cause any chronic health impacts assuming long-term (i.e., 30-year) exposures to children and adults in a residential setting. Therefore, no follow-up is necessary in this case.

One location near the Agriculture Street Landfill showed levels of benzo(a)pyrene exceeding EPA's residential guidelines. Federal partners are working to determine the appropriate course of action for the localized area of elevated benzo(a)pyrene.

Agencies that participated in the investigation and analyses are the EPA, LDEQ, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDHH), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the New Orleans Health Department.

Data and the areas sampled:

More information on lead:


Attached is a list of recommendations from CDC, ATSDR, LDHH, and the New Orleans Health Department on steps that individuals can take to limit potential exposure to lead in the home and in the surrounding soil of their neighborhoods.

In the home:
Keep children away from peeling paint inside the home.
When cleaning up around homes in affected neighborhoods, shower and change clothes after finishing work and before playing with your children.
Place washable doormats or rugs at all entries of your home. Have everyone wipe their feet or leave their shoes at the door to ensure lead-containing dust will not be tracked into the house.
Wash doormats, rugs, cleaning rags, and work clothes separately from other family laundry.
Frequently wash a child’s hands, especially after playing outside, before they eat, and at bedtime.
Do not let children put dirty hands, toys or other items that might have dust on them in their mouths.
When cleaning the home, wet-mop floors and damp-wipe surfaces.

Outside the home:
Keep children from playing in bare dirt. Cover bare dirt with grass, bushes, or 4-6 inches of lead-free wood chips, mulch, soil, or sand.
Keep young children away from areas, such as old fences or houses, where paint is peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking or damaged.

If you have specific concerns about lead hazards, contact the Louisiana Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, (504) 219-4413 or the Director of Health, City of New Orleans, (504) 658-2500.