The health effects of any contaminant depend on the amount and duration of exposure, as well as how you are exposed. Inhaled contaminants can have different effects than when the same contaminants are swallowed.

Health risk from heavy metals found near glass companies

Some of the heavy metal contaminants we have been monitoring for include:

  • Arsenic, which can increase the risk of lung, bladder and skin cancers.
  • Cadmium, which may increase the risk of lung cancer when inhaled. Cadmium can also damage kidneys when inhaled or swallowed. Swallowed cadmium does not increase cancer risk.
  • Chromium-6, which when inhaled at very high levels can cause acute respiratory and skin irritation. Chronic, low-level exposure to chromium-6 can increase the risk of certain lung cancers.

Short-term health effects

The current levels of metals in the air around the Bullseye and Uroboros glass manufacturing plants do not pose immediate, short-term health risks. Air monitoring continues to show low levels of metals in the air, due to glass makers reducing emissions of cadmium, arsenic, and chromium since mid-February, 2016.

Long-term health effects

Soil sampling results have revealed low levels of metals in nearby soil, which indicates that the long-term health risks from being in contact with residential soil in this area is also low. Current levels of metals measured in air samples are showing us that long-term risk moving forward under current air conditions is also low. However, there may be health risks from long-term exposure to past levels of metals in the air (before recent changes in manufacturing practices). Health experts are working to better understand past exposure conditions and determine what those potential long-term public health risks may be by conducting public health assessments (PHAs) in southeast Portland near Bullseye Glass Co. and in north Portland near Uroboros Glass.

In conducting PHAs, OHA uses the standard public health assessment process from the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry’s (ATSDR). PHAs assess health risks based on available environmental data. The Bullseye and Uroboros area assessments will be based on soil and air data collected near the facilities. PHAs are not community health studies and will not determine whether existing health issues are caused by environmental exposures.

The work includes:

  • Analyzing past air monitoring from the sites as well as other sites around the city.
  • Reviewing past production rates and methods at the facilities.
  • Future air testing at the emission stacks.
  • Additional soil sampling.
  • OHA will establish citizen advisory committees to partner with community members throughout these processes. It will share information and gather input from local residents in small group settings on future sampling and analysis plans, exposure assumptions and recommendations.

Getting a test

If you are concerned about exposure, talk to your health care provider to make the best choice for your health.

Learn how your diet can reduce the health effects of metals

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