Every year our Environmental Toxicology program responds to environmental health concerns and provides communities with epidemiologic and toxicological health assessments. Recently a community member from the town of Superior brought up concerns that contamination from past mining activities could be affecting the health of residents. Superior is a small mining town with a population of about 3,000, located approximately 60 miles east of Phoenix.
Our environmental health team visited Superior, conducted a drive-by survey, toured the mine, and met with residents, the mine and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to better understand the community. A health consultation was conducted based on annual water quality reports. No public health concerns were identified from this health consultation.
Another concern was that people in the community might have come into contact with lead present in waste piles (tailings) from smelting processes. This past summer, in partnership with the Superior Clinic, free blood lead screening was offered to the residents. Public meetings were held at the local school and at the Superior Town Hall to provide information. We advertised around town with posters, newspaper advertisements and articles in the local paper.
Fifty-three people signed-up for free blood testing, and 22 people, including 13 children, showed up at the clinic for testing. All blood lead levels came back below the CDC’s reference value of five micrograms/deciliter, showing that none of the community members tested were experiencing lead poisoning. Participants received a letter about their results and health education materials.
This work demonstrates the ability of ADHS to partner with communities, businesses, and other agencies to address health concerns and provide information about how communities can take action on their environmental health problems, and improve their health and quality of life.