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Oregon Building with High Lead Levels Closed for Cleanup

After state authorities found lead levels significantly above federal standards, the owner of a multi-use commercial building in Salem, Ore., that once stored and finished batteries has closed in order for testing, inspection, and cleanup work to be done. State regulators confirmed lead dust levels on several interior surfaces were significantly above national health standards in the building at 576 Patterson St. NW, which contains at least six businesses.

The owner agreed to close it March 30 at the request of the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and Oregon Occupational Safety & Health, which had reviewed results of tests on dust wipe samples taken from more than 20 locations inside the building and determined the lead dust levels posed a public health threat; the owner "moved immediately to fence the entire facility and personally contact all business owners in the building to inform them of the closure," according to OR-OSHA. The affected businesses include a CrossFit gym with a small child care facility; a home renovation firm; a baseball training facility with indoor batting cages; a catering business; a roller skating rink; and storage and office space. And a microbrewery is under construction in the building.

EPA limits for lead levels at child care facilities are 40 micrograms per square foot on floors, 250 micrograms per square foot for windowsills, and 400 micrograms per square foot for window troughs -- many of the samples collected in the 576 Patterson building had lead levels of many thousands of micrograms per square foot—one sample taken from the brewery floor was measured at 2,115.45 micrograms per square foot. A windowsill in the brewery was measured at 6,127.44 micrograms per square foot, the agency reported, adding that the highest sample in the building was taken from an electrical panel in a batting cage, found at 188,636 micrograms per square foot, and one on a girder above a roller skating rink was 179,654 micrograms per square foot. Only one sample—on the CrossFit facility floor—measured less than 5 micrograms per square foot.

"Chronic, long-term exposure to lead is a serious concern. When we see levels of dangerous contaminants such as lead at extremely high levels that potentially endanger public health, our goal is to stop the source of the exposure," said Dr. Katrina Hedberg, M.D., state health officer at the OHA Public Health Division. "This is why we encouraged the building's owner to close immediately and, fortunately, the owner acted without delay."

She said there is no evidence of human illness related to exposures at the facility. DEQ plans to inspect the building in the coming days, and Oregon OSHA will work with the building owner to conduct air monitoring during and after the cleanup of the interior. OHA is encouraging anyone who is concerned about past lead exposure to see their health care providers and be screened for elevated blood lead levels.

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