Minimizing dust from the Trail smelter is key in reducing children’s exposure to lead.
But simple reminders to hand wash and leave shoes at the front door, as well as soil remediation and safe renovation tips, all play synergistic roles in the downward trend of lead levels in Trail’s youngest residents.
This is evidenced by the latest results from the Trail Area Health and Environment Committee (THEC), based on September 2017 blood tests from 146 children aged six to 36 months.
The average blood lead level was 4.0 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dl), the lowest recorded to date.
“This is down from 4.3 ug/dl in 2016 and demonstrates continuous improvement on children’s blood lead levels with the ultimate objective of being at the lowest level possible,” began THEC chair, Trail Mayor Mike Martin.
There continues to be a strong correlation of blood lead levels with the level of lead in community air, he continued.
“This is the first year that Teck’s new Smelter Recycle Building was in full operation and we were expecting a positive impact,” Martin said. “The level of lead in air for 2017 was the lowest ever recorded and demonstrates the benefits of Teck’s Fugitive Dust Reduction Program.”
Teck Trail’s continued investments in reducing dust emissions are viewed as the greatest opportunity to further reduce children’s lead levels, Martin added.
“This, in combination with our other programs such as soil testing and remediation, Healthy Families Healthy Homes, and lead safe renovation support, has us on course to achieve lower blood lead goals in future.”
Of the 146 children participating in the Fall Blood Lead Clinic, 105 were from the targets areas of East and West Trail, Tadanac, Rivervale, Sunningdale, Shavers Bench, and Glenmerry.
Participation in the voluntary program remains high at 67 per cent.
After a year of 2016 community consultations, last spring THEC set a new children’s target of 3.5 ug/dl by 2020.
“Our 2017 results are a milestone for our community,” Martin said. “With the support of the community and through a comprehensive program, we’re heading in the right direction toward meeting our 2020 goal for children’s lead levels.”
The annual average lead in community air was 0.16 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³) last year. In fact, this exceeded the 2018 air quality goal of 0.2 µg/m³, set by the committee through public consultation back in 2010, which was the most stringent in Canada at the time.
“Teck is focused on improving community air quality,” Dan Bouillon, Manager, Environment at Teck Trail Operations said Wednesday. “Our 2017 results show a significant reduction in our air emissions, and the lowest level ever for lead in community air. Our fugitive dust reduction program, including the investment in the Smelter Recycle Building, which was fully operational last year, is having a positive impact and moving forward we are continuing to invest in opportunities to further reduce emissions.”