Philippines: Lead Smelter Cleanup in Pampanga
All the residents in the neighborhood surrounding a lead smelter in San Simon, Pampanga, were exposed to high levels of toxic lead contamination. Pure Earth teams found the highest readings of lead in soil, up to 100,000 ppm, at homes in a “lead zone,” an area that was once used to recycle used lead-acid (car) batteries. (The EPA standard for residential soil lead levels is 400 ppm.) Smelter workers and their families were being exposed to lead more than 250 times higher than the standard maximum levels.
Blood testing of residents showed that 100% of children had blood lead levels greater than 20 micrograms per deciliter (the US CDC recommends lead hazard reduction for blood lead levels of 20 micrograms per deciliter and higher), while 46% of the children had blood lead levels greater than what our lead test kit could measure (which was up to 65 micrograms per deciliter of lead in blood.)
The project was organized into three parts:
The Pure Earth team began by identifying the contaminated hotspots in the neighborhood.
Then the polluted area was capped with clean soil. Capping involves placing a permeable geotextile cover over the contaminated soil in order to minimize the community’s potential exposure to the toxic lead.
In addition, a six-foot-tall wall was built to separate the residential area from the lead smelter area.
The intervention was done in conjunction with house cleaning, community education, and blood testing.