Latest lead numbers steady; expected to drop in near future

The average blood level for a child in the Trail area remained relatively static since last year.

The average blood level for a child in the Trail area remained relatively static since last year, measuring 4.5 ug/dL (micrograms per deciliter).

That number, called a geomean, is expected to drop significantly rather than gradually in the next few years once Teck Trail’s fugitive dust program is fully realized with completion of the Smelter Recycle Building.

The current results for children aged six to 36 months were revealed during the Trail Area Health and Environment Committee (THEC) meeting Tuesday night.

Blood testing clinics continue to be well attended, this year 116 venous samples were taken, which meets THEC’s goal of a 75 per cent voluntary participation rate. Though the results were slightly higher than 2014’s 4.3 ug/dL average for children in Area 1 (Sunningdale, Shavers Bench and Glenmerry) and Area 2 (Tadanac, Rivervale, East and West Trail) the fact that 90 per cent tested are well below 10 ug/dL reflects that overall lead exposure continues to decline.

“THEC has done a good job over the years of facilitating reduced exposure of children to lead in our community,” Trail Mayor and THEC chair Mike Martin said. “Unfortunately, we did not meet our goal of having an average of 4 ug/dL for children’s lead levels by 2015, but we know that the greatest benefits of Teck’s Fugitive Dust Reduction Program have yet to be realized,” he added.

“The smelter recycle building is an example of this. It is important to Teck to continue its investments in reducing fugitive dust, which we believe offers the greatest opportunity to reduce children’s lead levels.”

Next year, the committee will be actively working toward an updated plan that includes public consultation and a new target level by 2020.

The Blood Level Objective Working Group recommended that THEC consider a 3.5 ug/dL goal in the next five years.

There’s still a long way to go in planning for a new guideline before the public meetings next fall, but the lower level is based on Teck’s goal to significantly reduce lead levels in the air within three years.

“Teck is committed to continuing to reduce lead emissions and meeting the Trail Area Health and Environment Committee’s 2018 air quality goals,” says Richard Deane, manager of public affairs for the Trail site. “We have made significant reductions in air emissions in the past 20 years…through…a multi-year effort to continue to improve community air quality.”

Other ways overall lead levels are being actively reduced is through community programs that include engaging expectant families, “Healthy Family” visits (71 completed this year), and the Healthy Homes Program.

Services available through that program include soil testing, yard improvement work and paint screening for lead contaminants. To date, the program has completed 78 home visits. Though only no lead is good lead, the year-to-year trend of gradual improvement is the salient principle.

“The children’s lead testing program is very important for identifying the smaller group of young children who have slightly higher than average blood levels,” says Dr. Kamran Golmohammadi from Interior Health. “So that their lead exposure can be reduced.”

Currently under construction, Trail’s new facility will enclose storage and mixing of in-process materials, and expected to reduce fugitive dust emissions up to 25 per cent.

The Fugitive Dust Reduction Program is aimed at reducing sources of dust from stockpiles, open mixing of materials and vehicle traffic on and off the site.