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Airborne heavy metals detected in inner Southeast Portland neighborhood


Potentially hazardous levels of arsenic and cadmium have been detected in the air in Southeast Portland near Powell Boulevard and Southeast 22nd Avenue.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is teaming with the Oregon Health Authority and Multnomah County Health Department to determine the significance the heavy metals might have for public health, as well as how to communicate the potential risk to affected people.

Preliminary air quality monitoring showed the metals are at higher than benchmark levels for short-and long-term health concerns, according to a joint news release from the two state agencies.

The health effects from exposure to arsenic and cadmium depend on how much a person is exposed and for how long. The agencies are collecting more monitoring data and analysis, and are working on maps that outline the potentially affected area.

The DEQ initially partnered with other agencies and schools to collect data establishing a correlation between concentrations of metals in moss and air pollutant concentrations, to understand the sources of the heavy metals. Samples were collected in October and lab results came back in late January.

The state agencies, in a joint news release, promised to issue regular updates on “this rapidly evolving situation.”

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