Since Eastside Portland residents learned there were heavy metal hotspots in our air, we’ve wanted to know: What does this mean for our health?
We wish we had a clear answer. We don’t, but we’ll tell you as much as we know.
Even with the best data, health effects from environmental threats are difficult to pinpoint and predict. And given our community’s low investment in air-quality monitoring, our data isn’t the best. DEQ air tests, while definitive, are few and narrow in scope. Findings from the U.S. Forest Service moss study, which made many of us aware of this issue, while broad-reaching, are preliminary and indirect.
Taken as a whole, though, the data gives reasonable cause for concern.
Oregon Health Authority and Multnomah County Health Department have provided some useful guidance for assessing your exposure to certain airborne toxics and making health decisions for yourself and your family. (You can find their most recent advisories at www.saferair.oregon.gov, and some are also available on our Documents page.)
But many have felt dissatisfied with the information provided by public health officials, whether because it is light on detail, at odds with advice from other health professionals, or focused on health risks related to only a portion of recently uncovered air contaminants and sources.
To address these gaps and contradictions, we have prepared some of our own answers to frequently asked questions. The information on our site is work in progress, and does not represent qualified medical or scientific advice. When it comes to gauging your risks and deciding whether and how to get medical or soil tests, we encourage you to do your own research. But we hope these resources will clear up some points of confusion, acknowledge areas where there are uncertainties or differences of opinion, and provide better tools to move forward.