Can arsenic cause cancer?
Yes. Inhalation of arsenic can cause increased risk of lung cancer. Ingestion (swallowing)of arsenic can increase the risk of skin cancer and cancer in the liver, bladder, and lungs. Whether or not someone develops cancer from arsenic exposure depends on how much they were exposed to and for how long and susceptibility to arsenic toxicity (based on age, pre-existing conditions, etc.).
How do I know if I’ve been exposed to arsenic from this facility?
Quemetco continues to perform daily ambient monitoring for arsenic, with exception of four publicly reported exceedances (July 23, 2014, August 4, 2016, May 3, 207 and November 1, 2017) air concentrations of arsenic have been below levels determined to be safe for public health (i.e., below the SCAQMD Rule 1420.1 24-hour ambient arsenic limit of 10 nanograms per cubic meter). The four instances are not related in any way. In fact, in each instance, exceedances were due to events or activities outside the facility’s normal operations. The results of our perimeter soil investigation also show low levels of arsenic in soil around Quemetco – with less than 5% of samples containing arsenic above the applicable screening level. Additionally, after the installation of the Wet Electrostatic Precipitator (WESP) in 2008 arsenic emissions into air have reduced by greater than 95%.
Is there a medical test to show I have been exposed to arsenic?
Medical tests are available to measure arsenic in blood, urine, hair, and fingernails. The accuracy of these testing approaches varies greatly, depending on the source of the arsenic, how recently exposure occurred, and the testing procedures followed by the practitioner collecting the sample. General population exposure to arsenic occurs through consumption of drinking water and, to a lesser extent, meats, grain, rice, apple juice and produce. A medical test cannot identify the source of the arsenic, only whether or not someone has been exposed to higher levels of arsenic than the general population.
I am pregnant. Am I at risk from living close to the Quemetco plant?
We believe in the safety of our operations. We constantly review our production processes to find ways to improve the safety within our facility and we are committed to operating with the environment and thehealth of the community, especially children and pregnant mothers, in mind.
What are the health effects of lead in children?
Lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to children’s health even at low exposure levels. Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead because their bodies easily absorb lead and they are more sensitive to lead’s effects than adults. In children, low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells. The California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch recommends that public health actions be initiated when the level of lead in a child’s blood is 5 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL) or more.
Can exposure to lead cause cancer?
There is some evidence that lead causes cancer in humans. Kidney tumors have developed in rats and mice that had been given large doses of some kinds of lead compounds. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that lead and lead compounds are reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens and the EPA has determined that lead is a probable human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that inorganic lead is probably carcinogenic to humans and that there is insufficient information to determine whether organic lead compounds will cause cancer in humans.
How about benzene?
Benzene is classified as a compound that causes cancer in humans. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene can cause leukemia, particularly acute myelogenous leukemia, often referred to as AML. This is a cancer of the blood forming organs.
Can I get my blood tested for lead?
Yes. We are offering free blood lead testing for the communities living close to the Quemetco facility. Please call (626) 364-1281 for more information on how to get a blood test.
Can I get my urine tested for arsenic? Will Quemetco pay for it?
Urine arsenic testing is not recommended for low level environmental arsenic exposures. The vast majority of the public’s arsenic exposure comes from drinking water and food, not from air emissions. Quemetco has installed state-of-the-art emissions control equipment as well as performing daily air monitoring for arsenic at several locations near the facility’s fence line. If you would like more information about arsenic, we will put you in touch with an environmental occupational medicine physician who is helping us on the project.
What happens if I find high levels of lead in my child’s blood?
A blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL) for children is the threshold at which the CDC now recommends public health action be taken, a change from pre-2012 guidelines in which 10 μg/dL was considered the “level of concern”. However, no safe level of lead in children’s blood has been identified. If your child’s blood lead level is 5 μg/dL or higher you should meet with your health care provider immediately to try to determine the source of exposure and develop a plan for repeated testing.
Is there lead in my drinking water?
Lead contamination of drinking water often results from corrosion of the plumbing materials belonging to water system customers. The communities of the City of Industry, Avocado Heights and Hacienda Heights are served by different water districts. The water distributed to residents is required to meet state and federal drinking water standards including U.S. EPA’s lead action level of 15 parts per billion. By law, your water purveyor must distribute a yearly water quality report to you. Please contact your purveyor directly for more information about your water quality.
Can I eat the fruits and vegetables from my garden?
Yes. Lead tends not to be taken up by fruits or vegetables grown above ground. Vegetables grown on the ground or under the ground (lettuce, carrots, and potatoes) are more likely to be contaminated with lead primarily from lead dust depositing on them rather than uptake from soil. You should always wash fruits and vegetables before you eat them no matter where they are from including the supermarket.
My child has asthma. Is Quemetco responsible for this?
We conduct regular air monitoring around the fence line of our facility to ensure that our emissions meet or exceed California’s strict air regulations. Asthma is one of the most common childhood diseases and can be terrifying for parents. Asthma can be triggered by a number of environmental exposures including tobacco smoke, dust mites, cockroach allergens, pet dander, and mold, in addition to outdoor air pollution. The child asthma hospitalization rate per 100,000 persons in Hacienda Heights (42.2) is lower than the statewide average (112.3).