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Professor finds some Pueblo children have high lead exposure

By Michelle San Miguel, Multimedia Journalist - Pueblo Chieftain Bureau/Telemundo Anchor, michelle.sanmiguel@krdo.com
Published On: Feb 07 2013 12:14:40 AM CST

Professor finds some Pueblo children have high lead exposure

PUEBLO, Colo. -

Those living on Pueblo's south side want to know if there are consequences to living by an old smelter site. The issue surrounds those living near Santa Fe and I-25, known as the Eilers neighborhood.

It was home to an iron smelter in the 1800s. A study found some homes had elevated levels of lead and arsenic.

Dr. Moussa Diawara, a professor at CSU-Pueblo, has tested the blood of 162 children in Pueblo. But for a fair comparison, it wasn't just those who live near the old smelter site. Of the 162 children he tested, at least 14 had high levels of lead.

"In kids, neurological damage can be permanent as a result of lead exposure, so kids are more prone to suffer from lead poisoning than adults," Diawara said.

Diawara says those high levels in children can be reversed, but it's harder to undo the damage as people get older. Right now, he doesn't have enough evidence to prove that the old smelter site is the reason and believes more research should be done before deciding whether the EPA should step in.

"If there is a real threat, if there is one I think it'd be appropriate to, in my assessment, to move on and go ahead and take care of the problem. If there isn't any, we should also not be raising the red flag," Diawara said.

Diawara will be testing the blood levels of another 90 children around Pueblo in the next few months. Of additional concern for Diawara: he has rental properties in the area and wants to know if there is a health risk.

The EPA and state health department will meet with neighbors Feb. 21 to further discuss the issue. Meetings will be held at St. Mary Help of Christians Church from 1-3 p.m. and another from 6-8 p.m.

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