Lead Monitoring in the Pilsen Neighborhood

Fact Sheet
April 2011

In January 2010, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) placed a monitor on the roof of Manuel Perez Jr. Elementary School to sample ambient air concentrations of lead in the area. The monitor was located there because of the Illinois EPA's knowledge of lead emissions from local sources, concern about the proximity of emissions sources to residents and schools, and expressed community concern.

Air samples at the Perez monitor were collected once every six days and typically showed lead levels well under the new, more protective National Ambient Air Quality Standard. However, periodically there were elevated lead readings at the monitor (elevated in 11 of the approximately 60 samples taken in 2010).

The National Ambient Air Quality Standard is based on an average of three months of readings. Although most of the readings in 2010 were well below the standard, four elevated samples between November 2010 and January 2011 caused the three-month average to be greater than the National Ambient Air Quality Standard.

The Illinois EPA is investigating to determine why the elevated lead events occurred. This investigation includes: adding a second monitor in the area, at Benito Juarez Community Academy; increasing the frequency of sample collection from every six days to every three days at the Perez and Juarez monitors; and conducting investigations of numerous sources in the area, including H. Kramer, a local brass and bronze smelter.

The first results from the new ambient monitor indicate that H. Kramer is contributing to the elevated ambient air lead levels.

Based on this new data, the Illinois EPA has requested that the Illinois Attorney General initiate legal action against H. Kramer relative to its contribution to a violation of the lead National Ambient Air Quality Standard.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency is working with the Illinois EPA to investigate the cause of the elevated lead readings and has also initiated enforcement action against H. Kramer.

Information on Lead

Lead concentrations in the ambient air have been declining steadily for the past 15 years.

  • Lead in gasoline was banned in 1996.
  • Manufacturing and industrial facilities have had to meet tougher regulatory requirements.

Lead concentrations in the air in Illinois have decreased by 42 percent over the last 10 years and lead emissions in Cook County are at the lowest levels since the government began keeping records on lead emissions.

In January 2009, the USEPA's standard for lead in the ambient air (National Ambient Air Quality Standard) was reduced from 1.5 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) to 0.15 µg/m3averaged over three months.

  • Roughly a tenfold decrease
  • Illinois EPA established new air monitors around the state.
Lead Sample Concentrations, Perez Elementary School, January 2010 - February 2011

If the monitor has readings over the National Ambient Air Quality Standard, is that an immediate threat to my family?

No. The National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead was changed in 2009 to provide increased public health protection. However, other sources of lead - such as flaking lead paint and playing in lead contaminated soils - have a much larger impact on lead exposure, especially for children. For more information on limiting exposure to these sources of lead, see below in this fact sheet. More information on prevention may be found at the sources listed at the end of this factsheet.

If the monitor on the school has high readings, are there high levels of lead in the schools?

To address this concern, the Chicago Public School District took air samples inside the Perez, Juarez and Walsh schools in March 2011.These samples found no lead contamination in any of the schools. For more information about the sampling the school district performed, please contact Lynn Crivello, Environmental Services Manager, Chicago Public Schools, 773/553-3113 or lacrivello@cps.k12.il.us

What is the Illinois EPA doing to determine the cause of the elevated lead levels in the air?

 

  • The Illinois EPA is attempting to identify all sources that could impact the Perez monitor. The Agency is aware of approximately 150 sources within a three mile radius of the Perez monitor.
  • The Illinois EPA is performing inspections of sources in the vicinity of the Perez monitor.
  • The Illinois EPA has established a second monitor in the area at Benito Juarez Community Academy to get a better understanding of where airborne lead is coming from.
  • The Illinois EPA has increased sample collection at the two lead monitors to once every three days.

 

Is the Illinois EPA investigating whether H. Kramer is the source of the lead emissions impacting the monitor?

 

Yes. The Illinois EPA has inspected H. Kramer several times and is continuing to gather a great deal of information from the source.

Also, the Illinois EPA installed a second lead monitor located at Juarez Academy, on the other side of H. Kramer from the Perez monitor (see map). The first results from the new ambient monitor indicate that H. Kramer is contributing to the elevated ambient air lead levels.

Based on this new data, the Illinois EPA has requested that the Illinois Attorney General initiate legal action against H. Kramer relative to its contribution to a violation of the lead National Ambient Air Quality Standard.

The Illinois EPA is also overseeing a proposed cleanup of lead contamination in the soils on the H. Kramer property. H. Kramer intends to install an asphalt surface on the site that will serve as an engineered barrier and implement a storm water detention design as required by the City of Chicago. These changes should be implemented in late summer or fall of 2011. In addition, H. Kramer has committed to providing remediation status reporting to the Illinois EPA on a monthly basis.

Are there other sources that could be impacting the monitor?

Yes. However, the most recent information that the Illinois EPA has indicates that H. Kramer is the primary contributor to the lead levels at the Perez monitor. The Illinois EPA will continue monitoring and will evaluate the necessary measures to address exceedances and the NAAQS violation.

Map of area

Lead - Basic Health Facts

Lead is a stable compound which persists and accumulates both in the environment and in the human body. Lead enters the human body through ingestion and inhalation with consequent absorption into the blood stream and distribution to all body tissues. Clinical, epidemiological and toxicological studies have demonstrated exposure to lead has a broad range of health effects. Since 1990, over 6,000 new health studies have been conducted. These studies have shown that children are the most susceptible to the damaging effects of lead because they are more likely to ingest lead due to hand-to mouth activity and early body development.

Lead poisoning is caused primarily by lead-based paint in older homes. The most common exposure to lead for children is through the ingestion of paint chips and contaminated dust from deteriorated or disturbed lead-based paint in homes built before 1978. Other main sources of lead exposure are dust, drinking water and contaminated soils. The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends that all children 6 months through 6 years old be assessed for their risk of exposure to lead.

Recommendations

The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends taking the following actions to minimize children's exposure to lead:

  • Wash your children's hands before they eat.
  • Give your child foods high in iron and calcium such as lean meat, eggs, greens, milk, cheese and yogurt. Fruits and fruit juices high in vitamin C such as tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, papaya, mangoes, cantaloupe and strawberries will enhance iron intake, which will prevent the child's body from absorbing lead.
  • Prevent chipping and peeling paint inside and outside your home.
  • Clean up paint chips and lead dust in window sills and on the floor near windows, doorways and woodwork.
  • Use a damp mop or cloth and a cleaning product to clean floors and surfaces.
  • Wash your children's toys often.
  • Throw away lead-painted toys.
  • Do not store food in open cans or pottery.
  • If you work with lead, shower and change clothes before coming into the home. Wash your work clothes separately.
  • Run cold water for a few minutes before using it for cooking and drinking.
  • Do not use water from the hot water tap for cooking, drinking or making formula.
  • Leave shoes at the door in order to minimize the tracking of contaminated exterior soil into the home.
  • Prevent children from playing in bare soil. It is recommended that children be either provided with sandboxes or that bare soil is covered with grass, mulch or wood chips.
  • Use lead-safe work practices during minor renovation and repair.

What happens next?

The Illinois EPA has referred to the Illinois Attorney General its finding that H. Kramer is contributing to a violation of the lead National Ambient Air Quality Standard. This referral includes a request that the Attorney General's Office pursue legal action against H. Kramer.

The Illinois EPA will continue sample collection and analysis using both the Perez and Juarez school monitors over the next few months to develop a full data set for varying weather conditions and wind directions.

The Illinois EPA will maintain communication with the neighborhood including developing further factsheets as needed.

The Illinois EPA will continue to work with other Agencies including the Attorney General's Office, the USEPA, and the City of Chicago to address the lead concerns in the community.

For more information

If you have questions about the lead monitors or would like to be put on a mailing list to be kept informed of updates about monitoring in the Pilsen area, please contact:

Brad Frost
Illinois EPA
Office of Community Relations
1021 N. Grand Avenue East
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276
217-782-7027
Brad.Frost@illinois.gov

For more information about preventing exposure to lead, lead-safe work practices, and testing children for lead, the Illinois Department of Public Health maintains information and factsheets on their website athttp://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/lead.htm; or contact:

Chicago Department of Public Health
Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
Hotline: 312-747-5323(LEAD)

USEPA has constructed a website which provides additional information on these air issues in the Pilsen neighborhood:http://www.epa.gov/reg5oair/enforce/pilsen/index.html