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Addressing Health Inequities in South Chattanooga: Lead Contamination and Childhood Lead Poisoning
Dawn Ford, Rosa Cantu * , Zachary North, Tes Cherian, Kavina Patel, Jaleesa Brumfield
1  University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

10.3390/IECEHS-2-06396 (registering DOI)

Soil lead contamination is an environmental health risk that greatly affects children in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Southside Chattanooga Lead Superfund Site was added to the National Priorities List in late 2018 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has designated the clean-up threshold for soil lead contamination to be equal to or over 360 parts per million. For the EPA to conduct soil testing and proceed with clean-up, a signed access authorization letter from the tenant or property owner must be submitted. As of May 7, 2019, there are still 4371 properties to test with an estimated 1100 expected to be above the remediation threshold. Despite mailing the letters and having several public meetings, the rate of return is approximately thirty percent for access authorization forms. To increase the response rate, local non-profit agencies, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) Lions Club, and the UTC Master’s in Public Health program have been involved in educating the community. Efforts include community health fairs, grant funded community-based blood lead testing for children, and a door-to-door canvassing campaign where residents are informed of the issue, provided with educational materials, and asked to sign and return access authorization letters to the EPA. The impact of community engagement is measured by the number/proportion of residents engaged, the number of signed authorization forms submitted, and the number of children tested for elevated blood lead levels. This poster presentation will discuss lead contamination in Chattanooga, and the results of our engagement work in the community.

Keywords: lead, child, poisoning, contamination, environment, inequity, health, blood, Southside, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Comments on this paper
Jayshree Rajbhandary
Comment; Addressing Health Inequities in South Chattanooga
With just one child out of ten children had an elevated blood lead level above the 5 µg/dL. With this data where 90% of the children had normal BLL, how can it be claimed that the that current methods utilized by the EPA and state agencies to educate residents about environmental hazards may not be working ?
Rosa Cantu
Thank you for your question!

In reviewing your concern, there are two separate issues to address when discussing awareness and elevated child blood lead levels. The survey data collected while canvassing found a very low level of awareness in the area. The EPA has been mailing letters to residents for years but many of our respondents had never heard of the issue.

On a separate note, our grant funding to provide blood lead testing to the area's children is intended to overcome the barriers that this minority population are subject to, such as transportation issues to medical appointments and conflicts with work schedules and clinic opening times. The elevated blood lead data reported is, of course, too small of a sample size to reflect anything conclusive as of yet. Please consider it as informational only at this point. Also, since the printing of this poster, we have conducted several more events and found that 2 out of 3 children screened have lead in their systems. Only the results considered elevated at 5mcg/dL are reported though, due to US Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

We are continuing our work through next spring and hope to have collected enough blood lead samples to publish results in May.