DEQ: 3rd heavy metal found in SE Portland air

High levels of toxic heavy metals found in air in SE Portland

Members of the DEQ and OHA at a press conference about cadmium, chromium, arsenic, Feb. 12, 2016 (KOIN)
Members of the DEQ and OHA at a press conference about cadmium, chromium, arsenic, Feb. 12, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Bullseye Glass Company in Southeast Portland and Uroboros in North Portland have agreed to stop using all cadmium and arsenic in their manufacturing, along with a third and more toxic metal, chromium.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality requested the 2 Portland glass companies voluntarily stop, and they agreed. Cadmium and arsenic, two metals found in the air in Southeast Portland, are common metals used in the glass industry.

In recent findings, DEQ found arsenic levels around 150 times the state’s healthy benchmark for ambient air. Cadmium levels were 50 times the suggested air quality limit.

Based on DEQ’s knowledge of the emission levels of cadmium and arsenic, it was determined there were likely to be other metals emissions. A preliminary analysis of the Material Safety Data Sheets indicated both companies were using compounds containing hexavalent chromium as a raw ingredient.

OHA hotline for residents concerned about the health effects of metals emissions: 971.673.0185
By email:

Bullseye Glass has operated in the area for 42 years. Uroboros, located in Northeast Portland, has been using cadmium for 35 years.

“DEQ appreciates the willingness of these companies to eliminate the use of all chromium compounds, cadmium and arsenic,” DEQ Director Dick Pedersen said in a statement Friday.

Bullseye Glass responds

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Bullseye Glass officials said: “We are concerned that DEQ’s frantic actions could put us out of business and cause 140 people to lose their jobs….DEQ now says it has been acutely aware of this issue for many years, but has not informed the public of any potential health risks, or alerted producers like Bullseye of any need to modify their operations until today.”

Types of chromium:

Chromium 3 (Trivalent chromium) is the most common form and is an essential nutrient found in our bodies and urine

Chromium 6 (Hexavalent chromium) is less common but much more toxic.
Inhaling chromium 6 at very high levels can cause acute respiratory and skin irritation.
Chronic, low-level exposure to chromium 6 can increase the risk of certain lung cancers

Information from DEQ/OHA

The DEQ is getting ready to begin air monitoring in Southeast and North Portland to see how the chromium in the air breaks down and the differentiation between the two forms.

Nina DeConcini with the DEQ said Friday they looked at the possible use of chromium after concerned parents spoke out Tuesday. Paperwork at the factories confirmed its use.

Both companies were compliant under federal regulations.

“The permitting process that the DEQ has for hazardous air pollutants is adopted from the federal program,” she said at a Friday afternoon press conference. That program limits the agency’s power, she said.

Moss samples turned over ot the DEQ in May 2015 indicated the toxins.

“This research has revealed and daylighted for us areas where we need to look more closely at our permitting program to determine how we might address these localized areas where there are emissions of concern,” she said.

David Farrer with the Oregon Health Authority said, “The most significant health risk would be an increased risk in lung cancer. So it adds to the risk of arsenic and cadmium for the cancer risk.”

A resident’s concerns

Bob Tousignant has lived in his home near Cleveland High School — and Bullseye Glass — for 40 years. What he and others don’t know is just how long they may have been breathing in toxic air.

“I think it’s a grave concern,” he told KOIN 6 News. “This isn’t good…especially finding a third heavy metal.”

What’s not clear is just how much of that toxic chromium was in the air, how long it will take to figure that out through testing and what other facilities may be using it.

In the meantime, Tousignant said he’ll be testing himself for exposure.

“There’s no question. I think you’d have to star wondering what’s going on.”



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