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What is lead? Where does it come from?

Lead is a naturally occurring mineral (metal) found deep within the ground. While lead has some beneficial uses, it is toxic to humans and animals. Once lead enters the body, it can cause permanent, irreversible damage. Prolonged lead exposure can lead to lower IQ, violent behavior and learning disabilities.

Historically it was used as an additive in paint (The EPA banned the use of lead-based paint in homes in 1978. The lead-based paint could be sold until 1980). It was also used as an additive to gasoline until 1995 to increase engine performance. In addition, lead was a by-product of lead smelting and refining operations. Those operations emitted lead into the air. That lead then settled on the ground near the refinery (approximately a 27 square mile area, including more than 40,000 properties).

Today, lead can also be found in some consumer products and imported items, such as: toys, food, make-up, ceramic dishware, old pipes, jewelry, keys and spices.

The main source of lead exposure in children today is from chipping and peeling lead-based paint in homes. Particularly vulnerable are children, due to their rapidly developing bodies and extensive hand- to-mouth activities early in life. Often, these children will lick or eat the paint chips containing lead. The paint chips containing lead taste sweet which makes them very appealing to children.

Why does Douglas County have Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP)?

There were two former lead processing facilities that operated in the old downtown Omaha area. One of the operations was in existence for more than 125 years. These facilities released lead-containing particulates in to the atmosphere from their smoke stacks. Lead particulates were then deposited on and settled in surrounding residential properties.

EPA's Superfund Program was created in 1980 to help clean up hazardous waste sites across the United States. The EPA ultimately declared the area (roughly) east of 56 th Street in Omaha as a lead Superfund site.

The Douglas County Health Department Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program was established and funded by the EPA to increase education and awareness in the community to encourage blood lead testing, provide inspection services to identify lead exposure sources and provide tools to individuals to reduce lead exposure.

Our program goal is to reduce childhood lead poisoning within Douglas County.

Background information on the Omaha Lead Site (OLS)

In 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was contacted by the City of Omaha due to concerns with the number of lead poisoned children in Omaha. The EPA began their investigation and discovered that lead refining activities that occurred for a number of years in the old downtown Omaha area on the Missouri riverfront contributed to the soil contamination throughout much of the eastern portion of the City.

In 1999, the EPA started replacing (remediating) lead-contaminated soil on residential properties that tested high for lead.

The Omaha Lead Site is the largest residential superfund site in the US.

As a result of the soil replacement (remediation) or sometimes referred to as “clean-up,” the Douglas County Health Department's Interior Lead Dust Program was created in 2010 to improve lead poisoning awareness in Omaha.

How do I get my soil tested?

While the EPA is no longer directly providing soil testing, the City of Omaha has been funded by the EPA to continue the soil testing in Omaha. Contact the City of Omaha at 402-444- 7366 to determine if your property is eligible for testing. If your soil tests high (>400 PPM) for lead content, the City of Omaha will provide assistance with the soil replacement (remediation) at no cost to the property owner.

Who pays for the soil remediation?

Soil remediation within the Omaha Lead Site is funded by the EPA’s Superfund Program. The Superfund dollars come from the businesses that caused the lead contamination.

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