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OHA News Release

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


Monitoring shows hexavalent chromium slightly above health-based goal near Reed College

Agencies report decline in most metals’ average concentrations, but some levels still above air quality targets

PORTLAND — The first set of data from an air monitor placed near Reed College in southeast Portland shows levels of hexavalent chromium above health-protective air quality goals.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) placed a monitor on the campus as part of the agency’s ongoing effort to pinpoint sources of hexavalent chromium emissions that exceed health benchmarks.

This week, state inspectors sent samples collected from facilities in the area to a laboratory for analysis of hexavalent chromium. DEQ anticipates results early next month.

Though the levels of hexavalent chromium are above the annual health-based target concentrations, they are below Oregon 24-hour screening level. According to an Oregon Health Authority (OHA) toxicologist, there is no indication of an immediate public health threat. Additionally, the findings do not indicate the need for any special precautions on the part of residents in the area.

The data are the first of 19-day monitoring results from the monitor DEQ set up just west of Reed College. The data show hexavalent chromium levels were 1.4 times above the annual health-based target or “ambient benchmark concentration” for the metal.

Three heavy metals were slightly lower compared to previous weeks but remained above long-term health benchmarks in southeast Portland, based on new data from air monitors deployed by DEQ. The metals detected above benchmarks were hexavalent chromium, cadmium and arsenic.

None of the metals were registered at levels that would be likely to cause any immediate health problems for people. However, metals persist in the air at concentrations above the long-term health benchmarks.

Results of the latest monitoring data were derived from samples collected through May 23.

The following table lists the average concentrations compared with what’s expected in urban environments (urban background), and the health-based target (ambient benchmark); data are listed in nanograms per cubic meter, or ng/m3:

Table air quality data June 10 2016.jpg

This week, state inspectors continue to review information obtained during inspections of multiple businesses in southeast Portland in an effort to pinpoint the source of elevated hexavalent chromium in the air.

Emissions of hexavalent chromium have averaged above health-based targets since 24-hour monitoring began March 1. Arsenic levels also are above health-based targets, but they are consistent with levels that would typically be found in urban environments.

Starting June 16, DEQ and OHA will post analyses of weekly air monitoring data from southeast and north Portland on the SaferAirOregon website. For information about the Cleaner Air Oregon initiative to align industrial air toxics regulations with human health, visit http://CleanerAir.Oregon.gov.

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