Minneapolis Children Tested For Arsenic Had Well Below Levels

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Test results of 65 children from several south Minneapolis neighborhoods found arsenic levels for most were below levels that would be a health concern. The pilot study also indicates that there does not appear to be a connection between exposure to arsenic in soil and the level of arsenic in the children's urine.

Residents living near the former CMC Heartland Lite Yard site have been concerned that their children may have been exposed to arsenic in the soil in their yards after state and federal agencies found deposits of arsenic near the site. Arsenic-containing pesticides were manufactured and stored at the site between 1938 and 1963. The yards with the highest concentrations of arsenic have already been cleaned up, but others with lower concentrations have not.

The Minnesota Department of Health conducted a pilot biomonitoring project to measure arsenic in a community that was likely to have been exposed to arsenic.

A summary of the results of the study will be shared with community members in a public meeting Monday, April 27 at the Corcoran Community Center, 3334 20TH Ave. So., Minneapolis. There will be an open house from 6-7 p.m., a formal presentation of study findings and methods from 7- 7:30 p.m. and continued open house from 7:30-8:30 p.m. The affected neighborhoods include parts of Corcoran, Longfellow, Midtown Phillips, Powderhorn, Seward, and Ventura Village, and all of East Phillips.

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Children between the ages of three and 10 were studied because they are more likely than adults to be exposed to arsenic through playing outside and getting soil in their mouths. Over 3,000 households were contacted about the study. From those, a total of 65 children completed the study with their parents' consent, and each provided two urine samples for analysis by the MDH public health laboratory. Individual test results and educational information were mailed to each of the families participating in the study.

Most of the children had levels of arsenic well below what would be a concern, according to biomonitoring program director Jean Johnson. The results of four children were near or higher than the action level. These families were contacted by MDH staff and were advised to contact a physician. Further testing of the urine samples for these four children by the MDH public health laboratory found that most of the arsenic was a less toxic form of arsenic that comes from foods such as seafood.

Fish can be a common source of the less toxic organic arsenic in foods. Sources of the more toxic inorganic arsenic may include treated wood playsets, pesticides and fertilizers used around the home, traditional medicines and supplements and foods such as rice.

The results from the project are very similar to other studies that have measured levels of arsenic in children's urine, Johnson said. "At the meeting we will show our results along with these other studies so that community members can see how their results compare to other community studies."

Johnson expressed appreciation to the community for their support of the project. "This pilot project helped us learn about the importance of community participation." Lessons learned from this project and three other pilot studies will be used to help MDH make recommendations for future biomonitoring.

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