Lenoir City Contamination Prompts Lead Tests Of Children

By Kristi L. Nelson knoxnews.com

The state departments of Health and Environment and Conservation, along with the Lenoir City government, will screen children and pregnant women for elevated lead levels tomorrow and next Tuesday due to concern about contamination at the former Car Works site.

Free screenings will be 1-6 p.m. both days at the War Memorial Building, 103 B St. in Lenoir City. Appointments aren't needed. Translators will be present to assist Spanish-speaking individuals.

"Lead associated with slag and foundry sand has been found at the former Lenoir City Car Works site in concentrations of concern" if the site will used or developed for business or housing, said Shelley Walker, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Health.

The Department of Environment and Conservation tested the soil on residential properties adjacent to the site and found about a dozen areas with lead levels that exceeded the recommendations of the Environmental Protection Agency, Walker said.

The Health Department will offer testing to see if children, who are most susceptible to high lead levels yet rarely exhibit symptoms, have been exposed. Pregnant women should be tested because increased lead levels can affect a fetus. Residents who live on properties near the former Car Works industrial site are particularly encouraged to get tested, Walker said.

Lead exposure can result in slowed development or learning and behavioral problems in children, as well as pose risks to the kidneys, red blood cells, and central nervous system.

Walker said the risk of lead exposure won't come as a surprise to most Lenoir City residents; the results of the soil testing have been widely publicized there.

Nor is finding lead in dust or soil uncommon. While lead paint is typically found in houses only if they were constructed in the 1970s or earlier, it's still an ingredient in paint used outdoors for such structures as bridges and water towers. It's also common at former industrial sites.

Anyone who has a blood-lead level high enough for concern will be referred for treatment, Walker said.