Lead tests for southeast Portland residents find low levels of the harmful metal

May 25, 2016

County lead specialist Perry Cabot tests a teary-eyed Luke Klassen as he is comforted by his mother Nikki Meyers.
County lead specialist Perry Cabot tests a teary-eyed Luke Klassen as he is comforted by his mother Nikki Meyers.

None of the children or adults tested so far for lead poisoning in southeast Portland had blood lead levels that would require further medical care or public health action.

The Multnomah County Health Department today reported that 192 people have been screened for lead poisoning since the state announced high levels of airborne lead in their neighborhood. All the blood lead levels for people screened so far are considered low. This includes results for 71 people who were tested Monday at the Children’s Creative Learning Center at Fred Meyer (CCLC).

“Parents should be reassured that we did not find blood lead levels of concern,’’ said Jae Douglas, director of the Environmental Health Department. “But we know we have not reached everyone, and encourage moms and children under 6 to take advantage of our upcoming clinics.”

The county popped up two free clinics after the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on May 19 announced airborne lead in southeast Portland at three to four times the state health benchmark. State officials linked the airborne lead to emissions from Bullseye Glass Co. on May 9 and May 10.

Because lead can harm the developing brain and other organs, the Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Paul Lewis recommended on May 20th, 2016 that pregnant women and children within a half mile of Bullseye Glass undergo lead screening. Testing was also offered to anyone concerned.

“With the test results obtained from residents last Friday and from childcare teachers and children on Monday, we are reassured,’’ Lewis said. “Testing can now be considered optional for those within the half-mile distance.’’

The fingerprick blood tests tell how many micrograms (millionths of a gram) of lead are in each deciliter (tenth of a liter) of a child’s blood (µg/dL). A blood lead level will tell if a person has been exposed to lead in the last three months. While no level of lead is viewed as safe, a confirmed level at or above 5 μg/dl is elevated and triggers public health action.

On Monday, the team screened 51 children under 6 at the CCLC; one child between age 7 to 18; and 19 adults. None required public health action.

The county also screened 121 people on Friday at a screening event at the SE Health Center including 33 children under age 6; 15 children between ages 7-18; and 73 adults. None required further action.

Any pregnant women and child under 6 can attend one of the Health Department's upcoming lead testing events. People can also request a blood test from their healthcare provider.

“There really is no safe level of lead,’’ said Perry Cabot, who oversees the Leadline. “The earlier we can find a problem, the sooner families can eliminate their exposure to the harmful metal and protect their health.’’

Questions about your risk? Call the Leadline at 503-988-4000 or email leadline@multco.us.

You can also find more information at Oregon Health Authority's guide to Protecting Your Family from Lead.