Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mapping Lead Contamination in the United States

(Click to enlarge GIS map of Flint)

“It’s Not Just Flint:” Lead Emitters and Contamination Maps

A state of emergency has been declared by Mayor Karen Weaver in Flint, Michigan, due to the dangerous levels of lead found in the water since the city switched from the Detroit water system to the Flint River as its water source in 2014.  According to a Flint medical study, the proportion of infants and children with above-average levels of lead in their blood has nearly doubled during this time.

While the situation in Flint is making news, the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that “more than 16,000 lead polluters exist in communities across the country, and their harmful emissions are found in every U.S. county."  The Council created an online interactive Google mapping tool so users can locate lead polluters nearby.

Vox reports that the soil of urban areas has been contaminated by lead for decades, sometimes at dangerous levels.  “…The biggest problem is inner-city soil contaminated by decades-old gasoline.  Gas went unleaded in the mid-1970’s, but all the old lead burned in the past was dumped into the air and then fell back to earth.”  And unfortunately “the tiny lead particles don’t biodegrade.”  Maps included in the article show the lead contamination in New Orleans, the District of Columbia, and New York City—especially Brooklyn.

For more information about these online cartographic resources, please contact the Ball State University Libraries’ GIS Research and Map Collection (GRMC) at 765-285-1097.

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