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After a lot of bloodletting along Bingham Creek last year, the results of testing are in, and they provide good news:

Very few children living along the contaminated creek have high levels of lead in their bloodstreams, and none has high levels of arsenic.The creek, which was contaminated by decades of mining in Bingham Canyon, contained soils that had extremely high levels of lead and arsenic.

"People in the Bingham Creek neighborhoods, in houses right up against the creek and in the delta area where a dam along the creek had widened the area of runoff, did not show elevated levels of lead and arsenic," said Dr. Thomas Schlenker, director of the Salt Lake City-County Health Department. "For whatever reason, it's very good news that they haven't suffered ill effects."

Conducted by leading environmental health researchers from the University of Cincinnati, the study found that in blood tests of 971 children, only eight had blood-lead levels above the "accepted level of concern" of 10 micrograms per deciliter.

In fact, the average level of the children tested was 2.56 micrograms, which is below the U.S. average for children.

The highest level found was 23.5 micrograms, which, Schlenker said, "is not so high that some cleanup and repair around the home" wouldn't solve the problem.

"Based on the small number of (blood-lead) elevations and the low average lead level, it appears that soil containing lead along Bingham Creek has not had a significant effect on children living in the area," states a fact sheet distributed to residents who participated in the study.

The mild increases of lead found in the eight children may have been due to lead from sources other than the soil - such as house-hold paint.

Schlenker said it's still a bit of a mystery as to why more children were not found to be affected.

"It may have to do with the fact that the form of lead in the (Bingham) environment may not be `bio-available,' that is, even though the lead is there, it may exist in such a form that it doesn't pose a threat to human beings," he said.

As part of the lead-exposure study, researchers took blood and urine samples from about 1,300 individuals living along the creek from 1000 to 4800 West.

The study was funded by Kennecott Utah Copper Corp., which, along with Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO), has cleaned up tons of soils along and in the creek.


Additional Information

Lowdown on findings

A public meeting will be held Thursday, Aug. 18, to discuss the findings of the Bingham Creek lead-exposure study and to discuss childhood lead poisoning in general. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in West Jordan City Hall, 8000 S. Redwood Road. If you cannot attend but have questions, call Gordon Lund, 944-6647, or Ilene Risk, 534-4638.