Lead in El Paso’s soil?
Our study determined if lead is present in the outdoor areas of El Paso. Community workers from AYUDA, our partner community organization, collected soil samples from 499 city and rural blocks in El Paso, Texas. On each block, community workers took a scoop of soil and put it in a plastic bag to form a composite sample (a mixture). The soil collected was taken from the public area in front of individual houses, typically 10 sites around each block. The composite samples were analyzed in the Geo Chemistry Laboratory of UTEP to produce a map of the distribution of this toxic element in the El Paso County.
Each dot on the map represents the block sampled and the color represents the range of lead concentrations in parts per million (ppm). For comparison purposes, a typical soil “uncontaminated” from lead in the earth’s outer layer is estimated to be from 15 to 50 ppm. In our study, the highest composite value of lead was 421 ppm, for a block in southwestern downtown.
See the map. What do you notice? Yes, the red dots tell you that lead levels are highest in the old downtown area of the city, in neighboring older commercial and industrial districts, and close to a smelter now closed. Lead values drop with distance away from this urban core zone, with the lowest levels in the peripheral, lightly populated developments and communities. This pattern was also found in analyses of the air monitoring filters collected in the city over the last decade.
Our map highlights the distribution of lead at neighborhood level. This map dipicks the local areas where lead in soil might be a concern, and reveal a pattern of lead distribution similar to other similar urban and industrialized cities. Even if not living in the red dot areas, we recommend avoiding soil entering your house, maintain a clean house free of soil and dust, and have your children wash their hands frequently when exposed to soil.