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OHA News Release

Media contact:
Jennifer Flynt
Oregon DEQ 503-730-5924
Technical contact:
Additional contacts:
Jonathan Modie
OHA Public Health 971-246-9139


Air monitor near daycare in SE Portland shows elevated selenium

State is directing nearby Bullseye Glass to reduce emissions of the metal

PORTLAND, Ore.—A jump in selenium concentrations in the air near Bullseye Glass Co. has prompted state agencies to immediately conduct an inspection and secure the company’s agreement to restrict use of the metal in its manufacturing process.

Data from a monitoring device near the Children’s Creative Learning Center (CCLC) daycare, one of multiple such devices the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has had deployed around Bullseye since March 1, 2016, shows that the concentration of selenium on Sept. 6 was 887 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) of air. Oregon’s 24-hour screening level for selenium is 710 ng/m3.

The 24-hour screening level is the level above which immediate negative health effects could occur.

When 24-hour screening levels are exceeded, that triggers further scrutiny by DEQ and OHA. Today the agencies sent a joint letter to Bullseye confirming the company’s commitment to limit use of selenium in its art glass manufacturing process to no more than five pounds per day and only use selenium in furnaces controlled by a baghouse. Scientists at the agencies believe that doing so will prevent spikes above the current 24-hour screening level.

The agencies also are requiring Bullseye to look into why a newly installed baghouse, which was expected to control emissions from 11 or more furnaces, apparently wasn’t effective in preventing the Sept. 6 selenium spike.

“Bullseye’s use of less than five pounds of selenium per day should be very effective in preventing the kinds of jumps in readings that we saw on Sept. 6, even if the metal is used in a furnace without a baghouse,” said Brian Boling, DEQ laboratory program manager. “We also need to make sure Bullseye’s new filtration system is working properly, which will further reduce the chances of spikes.”

Breathing air with high levels of selenium over a short period of time can cause respiratory irritation with symptoms such as coughing, bronchitis and difficulty breathing. Workers who breathed air with selenium levels much higher than measured near Bullseye also experienced stomach pain. Scientific evidence indicates that short-term exposure at the detected level does not cause cancer and does not cause developmental problems in children or developing babies.

OHA tracks real-time emergency department data from hospitals through Oregon ESSENCE, or Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics. The agency found there was no increase in ED visits related to respiratory illness on Sept. 6 or 7 from people who live near Bullseye Glass.

Selenium also has health benefits. Selenium is an essential nutrient, and selenium deficiency can cause other health problems, but high levels of the metal, as with many substances, can be toxic.

Oregon based its 24-hour standard for selenium on the level set by New Hampshire, the most restrictive standard for the metal in the nation. Other states have set higher levels. Oregon’s 24-hour thresholds are being reviewed by external health experts and will be open for public comment next month.

The current comparison values for metals in air can be viewed on the OHA website. The proposed 24-hour screening levels will be posted, and public comment can be made, starting Oct. 6 at http://CleanerAir.Oregon.gov.

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