Jasper and Newton Counties in Missouri are part of the Tri-State Mining District, a historic lead and zinc mining area that covers over 2,500 square miles of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Mining and smelting of lead and zinc ore date back to the 1850s and continued in the district until the 1970s. Processing of the ore resulted in approximately 150 million tons of wastes, of which approximately 9 million tons remain today.
Residential Cleanups & Formation of Citizen Groups
As a result of a Superfund investigation, a Joplin residential cleanup was ordered by EPA. In 1995, the cleanup of lead contaminated yard soils began. The Mayor of Joplin and many citizens realized that their involvement in this process would be crucial so the problem would not reoccur in the future. The EPA Superfund Program's efforts to involve the community at these sites have been extensive and have resulted in improved community relations and community decision-making.
Two citizens groups were formed as a result of these community involvement efforts: The Jasper County Superfund Site Coalition and The Jasper County/EPA Superfund Citizen's Task Force Committee. The task force, which was formed by the City of Joplin, has expanded the scope of its work beyond the cleanup activities to address lead contamination. Its work now includes environmental and health education, economic development, and broad environmental planning.
Environmental Master Plan
The City of Joplin, on behalf of the task force, applied to EPA for a $200,000 grant to develop an Environmental Master Plan for Jasper and Newton Counties. The plan is designed to be multifaceted, but will generally identify and address a wide variety of environmental issues. It will also establish criteria for local governments to use when implementing controls for proper and future residential development. CBEP tools have facilitated the engagement of the community in addressing the real threat of lead exposure, which has resulted in significant accomplishments for the area.
Some of the recent accomplishments resulting from CBEP-related projects include the:
- creation of a Lead Poisoning Prevention Girl Scout badge;
- publication of a Lead Safe storybook for toddlers and parents;
- development of public school curricula for lead poisoning prevention;
- creation of a combined Two-County Task Force; and
- design of an Environmental Management Plan, described above.
What Is Lead Poisoning?
Lead poisoning, or too much lead in the body, is a significant health problem in the United States. Children six years of age and younger who are exposed to, or come into contact with, lead are of special concern. Studies show that lead can be harmful to children's health, even at very low levels in the blood (such as 10 micrograms per deciliter).
Exposure to lead may have several health effects:
- hearing, speech, or language problems;
- poor attention spans;
- slow mental growth;
- and, lower IQs.
Lead exposure can occur both before and after a child is born. Once lead gets in the body, it enters the bloodstream and soft body tissues (such as the kidney, liver, and brain). From there it goes to hard body tissues such as bone and teeth. Lead can be stored in hard body tissues for years.
It is often hard to notice the health effects of lead poisoning in children. But it is possible to tell if a child has been exposed to lead by having a blood test. These tests look for levels of lead in the blood. If a high level is detected early enough, the health effects from lead may be prevented.
Childhood Lead Poisoning
- Nearly 1 million children living in the United States have lead levels in their blood that are high enough to cause irreversible damage to their health.
- According to recent CDC estimates, 890,000 U.S. children ages one through five have elevated blood lead levels, and more than one-fifth of African-American children living in housing built before 1946 have elevated blood lead levels.
- Current studies suggest that the primary sources of lead exposure for most children are deteriorating lead-based paint, lead contaminated dust, and lead contaminated residential soil.
- Lead can damage a child's central nervous system, kidneys, and reproductive system and, at higher levels, can cause coma, convulsions, and death.
EPA Region 7 Contact
Kathleen L. Fenton
CARE Program Manager