USA TODAY Investigation Reveals Hazardous Levels of Lead in Neighborhoods Across the Country
MCLEAN, Va., April 19, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A USA TODAY investigation has revealed that in hundreds of neighborhoods across the United States, children are living and playing near sites where factories once spewed lead and other toxic metal particles into the air. The factories, which melted lead in a process called smelting, closed long ago but poisonous lead particles can still be found in the soil nearby.
Ghost Factories: Poison in the Ground is a result of a 14-month USA TODAY investigation that set out to answer the question: Did the government heed a warning in a scientific journal – published more than 10 years ago – that people living near 400 forgotten factories could be in danger? The investigation ultimately found evidence of smelting, foundry work, metal melting or lead manufacturing activity at more than 230 sites. USA TODAY tested soil in 21 smelter neighborhoods in 13 states, a mix of locations that varied from the urban cores of big cities to a small Midwestern town. Federal and state officials did little to find many of the factory sites, alert residents or test the soil nearby.
Results varied from house to house but the majority of the yards tested in several neighborhoods had high lead levels – in some cases, five to 10 times higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency considers hazardous to kids. Children who play regularly in lead-contaminated soil, just by putting dust-covered hands and toys in their mouths, are being exposed to a poison studies show lowers intelligence and reduces academic achievement, delays puberty and causes other health problems.
Part one of the two-part series can be found in today's print editions of USA TODAY, on USA TODAY's iPad app and online at ghostfactories.usatoday.com. Online, users can explore more than 160 historical maps showing the factory sites at the time they were in operation. The site provides access to more than 15,000 pages of records about the various sites, empowering users to learn more about the sites in their neighborhoods. Through an interactive map, users can see where USA TODAY's soil tests found hazardous lead levels and view 14 videos that tell the stories of the people who live in those neighborhoods. Part two will appear in Friday's print editions of USA TODAY and on www.usatoday.com.
USA TODAY is a multi-platform news and information media company. Founded in 1982, USA TODAY's mission is to serve as a forum for better understanding and unity to help make the USA truly one nation. Today, through its newspaper, website and mobile platforms, USA TODAY connects readers and engages the national conversation. USA TODAY, the nation's number one newspaper in print circulation with an average of nearly 1.8 million daily, and USATODAY.com, an award-winning newspaper website launched in 1995, reach a combined 5.4 million readers daily. USA TODAY is a leader in mobile applications with more than ten million downloads on mobile devices. The USA TODAY brand also includes USA TODAY Education and USA TODAY Sports Weekly. USA TODAY is owned by Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI).
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