Dirt Alert - Lead & Arsenic In The Soil

Search here for soil sampling results and cleanup records!

This link is a helpful tool for those who live in the Asarco Study Area. The public portal provides homeowners with the data that the Environmental Protection Agency gathered during their clean-up actions from 1993 to 2011. The area covers the town of Ruston and a part of North Tacoma. A map is provided to aid in determining if you live in the Asarco Study Area.

If you need assistance, or have question regarding your results, you can call the Department of Ecology at (360) 407-6790 or the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department at (253) 798-3503.

ECOconnect - Information on soil contamination, the Dirt Alert Program, and lots of ways to keep your kids healthy and safe.

Most kids like to play in the dirt, but did you know that dirt might contain arsenic, lead and other chemicals that can harm your child? With a grant from the Department of Ecology, the Health Department collected samples of dirt to learn more about the levels of arsenic and lead in Pierce County. The results show elevated levels in Tacoma, University Place, Lakewood, and Gig Harbor.

Where Does Arsenic and Lead Come From?
A small amount of arsenic and lead occurs naturally in Washington State, found in rocks and water. Often times, high levels of arsenic and lead found in our environment come from man-made sources. The former ASARCO copper smelter in Ruston, WA operated for almost 100 years. The smelter's smokestack released arsenic, lead, and other chemicals throughout the Puget Sound region. Some of these chemicals, particularly arsenic and lead, settled into the upper layers of the dirt.

We found that the closer the area is to the old smelter, the more likely it is to be polluted. However, we also found that activities such as landscaping and land development usually lower the level of arsenic and lead by mixing it with cleaner dirt.

What Does This Mean to Your Health?
The elevated levels of arsenic and lead in most areas of Pierce County do not pose an immediate health threat. There is concern about possible health effects if your family is in contact with contaminated dirt over a long period of time.

Arsenic is known to cause cancer, and lead has been linked to developmental disabilities. Exposure to arsenic and lead occurs when they are eaten or inhaled. Skin contact with arsenic and lead is not considered an exposure to be concerned about.

Anyone can be at risk, but children under the age of 6 are at greater risk of health effects over their lifetime. Why? Kids put hands and objects in their mouths. Children are also smaller in size, which means they take in chemicals in greater concentrations than adults.

The good news is that by following some Healthy Actions you can help protect your family from chemicals found in dirt.