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Palmerton Zinc

Fact Sheet - November 1994


The Palmerton Environmental Task Force (PETF) has started a community-wide Lead Abatement Program. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region III (EPA) has participated in several of the planning meetings for the Lead Abatement Program and has been asked numerous times for its position on this program. It is EPA's position that while the program will be beneficial to distributing information to the community on the hazards and presence of lead paint, we believe that the blood study is a duplication of the blood study performed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Control (ATSDR) and may not have the benefit of ATSDR's experience and expertise. EPA also believes that the Lead Abatement Program may neglect to consider the presence of past and current industrial pollution. The National Enforcement Investigations Center's (NEIC) Source Identification Study positively linked the contaminants found in household dust to zinc smelting and Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) dust recycling. Lead paint is an insignificant contaminant source when compared to the industrial contamination. While addressing lead paint may be a good idea, it will not reduce your family's exposure to leaded dust from the smelting and EAF dust recycling operations. It will not reduce your family's exposure to cadmium and zinc at all.

Exposure Routes and Toxic Effects of Lead Paint

EPA developed this fact sheet to present interested citizens with information on lead paint, its dangers, and approved abatement methods. Leaded paint may be found on any interior or exterior surface but particularly in older (pre-1978) buildings. Families can be exposed to lead from paint by eating or inhaling lead-contaminated dust or soil. Typically, lead-contaminated dust is created from paint by:

Families can ingest lead dust that settles on windowsills, floors, and furniture. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air through cleaning, such as sweeping and vacuuming, or by people moving throughout the house. Young children are particularly likely to be exposed to leaded-dust and soils because of their normal hand-to-mouth activity. Although severe lead poisoning may result from eating lead paint chips, the most common exposure route in the United States is through ingestion of dusts and soils.

In children, lead poisoning can damage the brain and nervous system, cause behavior and learning problems, impair hearing, slow development, and reduce attention span. Lead affects pregnant women by causing premature deliveries, lower birthrate, and, in extreme cases, miscarriage or stillbirth. In adults, lead poisoning can cause mood changes, muscle and joint pain, nerve disorders, and reproductive damage. It can also cause high blood pressure. Please see the January 1992 Fact Sheet, located at the information repository listed on the last page of this fact sheet, for a more in-depth discussion of the health effects of lead by EPA Toxicologist, Roy Smith.


EPA recommends against homeowners trying to remove lead- based paints by themselves unless they follow EPA's recommended work practices and safety procedures. If these procedures are not followed, family members can actually become lead-poisoned as a result of abatement activities.

Using Contractors

Because Pennsylvania does not certify lead paint abatement contractors, choosing a contractor can be difficult. A good approach is to call the National Lead Abatement Council at (610) 520-1414 and ask for a list of contractors. Contact several contractors and ask for references. Also request the name of the organization that trained them in lead abatement and the date of the training. Contractors trained after 1990 are preferable.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has developed guidelines for the safe, effective removal of leaded paint in homes. These guidelines are available for $55 from HUD (1-800-245-2691). They also may be available at your local library or health department.


Methods of lead paint abatement can include:

These methods and others require strict safety rules to prevent harm to workers and families living in the home. EPA strongly recommends that lead paint abatement be performed by a qualified contractor.

Lead Paint Screening

As part of its Health/Environmental Study, conducted in 1991 and 1992, EPA screened homes in Palmerton for the presence of lead in interior and exterior paint. If you participated in this study, you have already been informed as to whether your home contains lead paint.

Professional testing companies use two basic methods to measure lead in paint:

X-Ray Fluorescence uses portable detectors that X-ray a painted surface to measure the amount of lead in the layers of paint. This type of testing is performed in the home and disturbs little, if any, paint.

Laboratory testing of paint samples involves removing samples of paint from each surface to be tested, usually from an area of about two square inches. Samples are then sent to a laboratory for analysis. This method leaves a bare spot on each surface tested.

Although do-it-yourself kits are commercially available, they do not indicate how much lead is present and their reliability at detecting low levels of lead has not been determined. EPA recommends professional testing over the do-it-yourself kits.


If you know or suspect that there is lead-based paint in any area of your home, you should avoid the following activities in those areas:


Q. If a homeowner signs an access agreement with EPA, can EPA then enter the property and home at any time, including any time in the future?

No. EPA typically requires two to three hours to collect environmental samples from residences which are considered for the clean-up program and five to seven days to complete the cleanup once the residence is determined to be eligible. EPA requests that the property owner allow (by their consent only) EPA and its authorized representatives access to the property for this time period. However, the property owner has and maintains the right to refuse access to EPA and its authorized representatives at any time. The Interim Removal Action is a voluntary program designed to protect vulnerable community members from the potentially harmful effects of exposure to dust and soil containing high levels of heavy metals.

Q. What is the chance that my neighbor's residence will recontaminate mine if I participate in the cleanup and he doesn't?

The goal of the Interim Removal Action is to reduce exposure of the most sensitive members of the community -- small children -- to the contaminated soils and dust. Therefore, EPA is concentrating its efforts on areas where children frequent and may come in contact with the contaminants. Obvious places are their homes and common-use areas such as parks and playgrounds. While EPA would prefer to address each contaminated property, the Agency is focusing its interim cleanup on homes with both high concentrations of contaminants and small children. In addition, the Agency is targeting common-use areas.

It is possible that neighboring properties have differing degrees of cleanup or contamination because of two reasons: (1) the interim action is voluntary and some people may not choose to participate and (2) some homes may not meet the criteria for EPA's interim action. More importantly, however, since the majority of contact with soil would occur in property owner's yards and in common-use areas, the interim cleanup action provides the best protection at this time.

Q. How does EPA determine which residences are included in the on-going cleanup program?

EPA considers the following factors before including a particular property in the clean-up program: the concentration of contaminants (cadmium, lead, and zinc) at the property and the presence of small children and/or the presence of a child with a high blood lead level. If the results of environmental sampling conducted at a particular property indicate high levels of cadmium or lead and small children live or spend a lot of time at the property, then EPA considers including the property in the clean-up program. EPA does not consider participation in any environmental or other group as part of the decision-making process. In fact, many more locations are excluded than are included in the clean-up program.

Q. How does EPA determine the extent of the cleanup at a particular property?

Once a property is included in the clean-up program, EPA arranges the details of the cleanup with the property owner, based upon the recommendation of EPA and the owner's requests. EPA may do only interior or exterior work depending upon the owner's requests and considering the condition of the exterior or interior of the property and house. For example, EPA and the owner may determine that:


Step One
Resident responds to a survey questionnaire indicating the presence of small children in the household and interest in the Interim Removal Action. If you would like a survey form, please contact EPA directly at (215) 814-5527.
Step Two
EPA develops a list of locations to be sampled from the survey responses and from residents who otherwise contact EPA. EPA then arranges environmental sampling of soil and interior dust and paint at these residences.
Step Three
EPA evaluates the results of the survey samples and determines the eligibility of the property in the clean-up program. Although EPA considers many factors in determining eligibility, the presence of young children at the residence is a key factor.
Step Four
EPA mails the analytical results to the residents. EPA then contacts the owners of the eligible properties and offers to perform the cleanup. The property owner must make the decision to agree to the cleanup before EPA schedules the cleanup.
Step Five
EPA schedules the cleanup of interested and eligible properties. EPA reviews the clean-up process with the homeowner and discusses how to accommodate the owner's requests.
Step Six
EPA provides the property owner with packing materials and information on how to prepare the home for cleanup. Possessions should be placed in boxes but do not need to be removed from the house.
Step Seven
EPA hires an appraiser to prepare an appraisal of the replacement cost of property (mostly carpeting) which may have to be replaced during the cleanup. EPA and the homeowner sign and notarize a replacement agreement which requires EPA to pay the owner for the replacement. EPA will deal with any property damage which may occur on a case-by case basis.
Step Eight
EPA then conducts a survey of asbestos- containing material to ensure that EPA does not unknowingly disturb this material during the cleanup. However, EPA will not address asbestos-containing material. EPA will survey the property to ensure that the cleanup does not intrude into areas of adjacent property owners.
Step Nine
EPA requests that families temporarily relocate from the premises during the interior cleanup to prevent any unnecessary exposure and to facilitate a prompt cleanup. Although clean-up methods are designed to remove or prevent any unnecessary contact with contaminated materials, the process may introduce contaminated particles into the air. EPA reimburses families for meals and lodging while out of the house.
Step Ten
EPA cleans the interior and/or exterior of eligible properties. The family may return when the interior is done.


Larry Brown (3EA30)
Community Involvement Facilitator
EPA Region III
1650 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029


The following location contains all available information on the Palmerton Zinc Site, including the Administrative Record File Index, the Community Relations Plan, any recent fact sheets, and relevant reports, such as the NEIC Source Identification Study Report.

Palmerton Library
4th Street and Delaware Avenue
Palmerton, PA 18071
Gerald Geiger, Director
(215) 826-3424


Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. - 4:55 p.m.
Monday through Wednesday,  7:00 p.m. - 8:55 p.m.
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. - 11:55 a.m.

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