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Smelting Danger Essay, Research Paper

The health hazards due to lead smelting are many and possibly fatal. The Robinson* lead smelting facility in our town has been polluting our soil for years and it is time to face the fact and stop it from ruining our community. The prior lawsuits against smelting plants and the evidence within our own neighborhoods should be enough reason to get on the phone with the State Health Department and get them down here to conduct their study and shut the plant down. If you are not familiar with the dangers of lead poisoning and its correlation to what is going on here in our community then please read this report carefully.

When lead is melted it produces poisonous fumes and dust, which can find their way into the soil and air around the melting area.[1] This is a process that occurs all day just down the street from hundreds of unsuspecting victims. At the lead smelting plant they undergo a process which melts lead and then fuses it or separates it to produce an ore or a pure sample of lead.[2] Both processes release extremely dangerous amounts of inorganic, toxic lead in the form of dust or fumes. Without the proper containment, these materials can find their way into our water system or just settle in the soil around the plant.[3] Either way, that means that the whole community is exposed to the dangerous by-products produced by the Robinson Smelting Co.

Effects of the lead exposure are extremely evident in our community. All of us have noticed an increase in the number and frequency of illnesses in our neighborhood (respiratory problems, rashes, as well as increased fatigue and forgetfulness). Lead has a very large range of effects at both high levels (damage to basically every organ in you body, possible death depending on length of exposure), and at low levels (effecting hem synthesis, impairment of psychological and neurobehavioral functions, and various other biochemical processes).[1] As you can see all of the health problems we have been experiencing are directly related to lead exposure. The plant down the road has put all of our children and us in danger by poisoning our environment.

The population with the largest threat of lead poisoning from the plant lies in our very own children. Pre-school children and fetuses are usually the most vulnerable segments of the population at risk for exposures to lead. [1] Their higher risk of exposure is due to the developing nervous system (which is extremely susceptible to the neurotoxins of lead), the fact that they play the dirt and put dirty objects in their mouth which both could be contaminated, and the rate of lead absorption from the gastrointestinal tract is greater in children than adults.[1] Children in the 2-3 year old age bracket contain the highest PbB(blood lead) levels than any other age range, which shows their increased risk in a higher than normal lead environment.[1] A great deal of studies have been conducted on the effect of lead concentrations on children s bodies, some of these studies results are listed here in Table 1.

Table 1

Dose relationships between Pb levels of soil and Pb levels in blood[1]

Study Dose response relationships

Change in blood Pb per 1000 ug/g soil lead Change in blood Pb per 100 ug/g soil lead


Angle and McIntire 15.5 1.6

Brunekreef et. Al. (1993) 11.3 11.1

Stark et. Al. (1982) 10.2 1

Davies et al. 10 1

Haan 10 1

Madhaven et al. (1989) 9 0.9

Reeves et al. (1982) 8.1 0.8

Lead industries communities

Brunekreef et al 12.6 1.3

Landrigen et al. 11.7 1.2

Neri et al. (1978) 11.2 1.1

Yankel et al. A(1977) 7.3 0.7

The above table shows the dangers of a higher level of contamination and the effect it has on the blood lead levels of a child s body. The smelting plant provides those higher levels, that is the only way to explain the drastic rate of illness in our town. This is not the first time a smelting plant has been linked to diseases in a community. The Franklin Smelting and Refining Corp. of Philadelphia was put under fire by OSHA in August of 1997 for exposing its employees to life threatening levels of airborne lead and cadmium. The company was also cited earlier in that year by the EPA for releasing a higher than allowable level of toxins into the air.[2] Violations of the EPA s allowable level of poisonous emissions are often broken and overlooked, because of this communities like ours suffer.

Other resources that could produce dangerous levels of lead poisoning also must be taken into account. For instance, houses built before 1980 have a strong chance of having a lead based paint on them. Chipping of this paint can contaminate the soil around the house and drastically increase the risk of a health problem.[3] Also, even though leaded gasoline has been banned in the US for sale since 1995, all the emissions that took place prior to the ban are still in the ground and atmosphere.[2] These examples could provide for some alternative reason, but the problem is so prominent that a larger reason seems to be more likely. The soil next to smelters have lead contamination upwards of 60,000 PPM (parts per million), compared to a severely chipping lead based paint which give off a contamination of 10,000ppm.[3] It is impossible to detect the exact reason why the lead levels are so high, but the threat of a nearby smelter, if not properly run, is a much greater danger than any paint that you put on a house.

I strongly urge everybody in our community to step up and sign the petition asking the State Health Department to come and do a study of the plant that is destroying our lives. The facts have been listed, there seems to be no alternative but to take action against the plant. These people have poisoned our children for too long. It is time to put a stop to it before it gets worse and we have our own children dying from lead intoxication. I was assigned to investigate this matter by you, and now I am telling you that our local smelting plant is operating unacceptably and it is time to do something about it!

Work Cited

[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 4 March 00. http://infoseek.go.com/?win=_search&sv=M6&qt=health&oq=lead%7Csmelting&url=http%3A//www.atsdr.cdc.gov/cxlead.html&ti=ATSDR+-+Paper%3A+Impact+of+Lead-Contaminated+Soil+on+Public+Health&top=

[2] Occupational Health and Safety Administration. OSHA FINES AGAINST PA SMELTER. 6 March 00. http://infoseek.go.com/?win=_search&sv=M6&ud9=IE5&qt=health&oq=smelting+plant&url=http%3A//www.citation.com/hpages/oshadc7.html&ti=OSHA+Fines+Against+PA+Smelter&top=

[3] National Resources Defense Council, Inc. Our Children at Risk. 6 March 00. http://infoseek.go.com/?win=_search&sv=M6&ud9=IE5&qt=smelt&oq=health&url=http%3A//www.nrdc.org/nrdcpro/ocar/chap3.html&ti=NRDC+Pro%3A+Our+Children+At+Risk+-+Chapter+3&top=1207

* Fictional Company made up for purpose of paper


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