Revealed: A toxic metal is in a US city’s air – and may be harming children’s brains
The Guardian finds children in Portland, Oregon could suffer significant cognitive impacts from lead emissions from a nearby racetrack, one of dozens across the US to use toxic leaded gasoline. Emma Pattee and Stuart Henigson report.
In a nutshell:
The investigation focused on the Portland International Raceway, a facility owned and operated by the city of Portland, calculating that third graders living within two miles of the track could face declines in standardized testing. Portland is not alone: Across the U.S., more than a dozen major race tracks alone feature competitions with leaded gasoline vehicles, which research has linked to learning problems in kids.
“That is pretty startling,” said Vivek Shandas, a professor of urban studies at Portland State University, who reviewed The Guardian’s findings. Shandas characterized lead exposure at the track as “one of the more serious concerns that would affect the environmental health of Portlanders."
There is no safe level for lead in children. Lead exposure can lead to brain and nervous system damage, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior difficulties and hearing and speech problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Citing the health risks, leaded gasoline was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency for use in passenger vehicles in 1996, but with an exemption for "off-road" vehicles, which includes race cars.
To learn more about the mental health and developmental impacts of lead, we recommend EHN's award-winning series, Pollution's Mental Toll.