Chemical exposure testing underway for Freeport residents

May 3, 2012 3:35:08 PM PDT
Hundreds of residents in the Freeport area are being asked to line up to be tested for possible metal exposure. A frightening thought for many families; it's the first step in determining whether residents may have been exposed to potentially hazardous pollutants from a nearby chemical plant.

Experts have started collecting samples for the voluntary test that will help the state figure out if residents are being exposed to high amounts of some metals.

Mary Galvan is a Freeport mother of four.

"Constantly I'm taking them to the doctor, wondering why are they always suffering allergies," she said.

Galvan was among those getting information early Thursday on tests which the state is conducting. It's collecting urine samples from those living in certain neighborhoods in an effort to determine if those living there are being exposed to excessive levels of cobalt, molybdenum and nickel. They've been found here in both the air and soil.

Dr. Carrie Bradford with the Department of State Health Services said, "I think if people are concerned, they should be tested. It's a chance for them to have a free test done to see what they have in their body."

While state officials have not said publicly where the metals originated, Gulf Chemical and Metallurgical Corporation admits it produces them as a byproduct of its operation. A company executive says it pled guilty to 11 felony charges in 2010 of violations of the Clean Water Act, paying a $2.5 million fine.

Three hundred samples will be chosen at random from those who participate in testing. The metals can cause skin, eye or airway irritation, and in some studies can cause cancer.

Mary Galvan characterizes her level of concern as "high."

"Ten! It's my children. I want to know what's going on with their health," she said.

You can pick up everything you need at the Freeport Historical Museum at 311 East Park. To participate you just have to have the sample returned by 6pm Sunday.

Collection will take place at the following times:

  • May 3 from 4pm - 7pm
  • May 4 from 10am - 7pm
  • May 5 from 10am - 7pm
  • May 6 from 1pm - 6pm

Residents can pick up urine collection cups with sample collection instructions at the clinic and can drop off their urine samples for testing. No appointment is needed, however urine samples must be provided to DSHS staff before 6pm on May 6.


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