Public health officials testing for chromium 6 in Paramount soil, homes

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Amidst concerns about elevated levels of hexavalent chromium in the South Los Angeles city of Paramount, public health officials and state regulators are testing for the carcinogen and other toxics in the soil and inside homes in community hot spots.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health is testing soil samples collected from ten locations on two different residential blocks, says Dr. Cyrus Rangan, the department's director of toxicology and environmental assessment.

Separately, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control has collected 16 soil samples from eight locations at Village Skate Park and nearby sidewalk, according to agency spokesman Sandy Nax. He says DTSC also collected and analyzed five surface dust samples for metals.

The properties are near Anaplex Corp. and Aerocraft Heat Treating Co., two metal processing facilities that the South Coast Air Quality Management District says contributed to elevated levels of chromium 6 in Paramount last fall.

Besides testing for chromium 6, Public Health is testing the soil for other metals, including arsenic, lead and nickel, according to Rangan. He acknowledges that with about 80 metal processing facilities in the city, there could be other environmental problems as well.

"Even though Anaplex and Aerocraft are much more chromium operations than anything else, we know there can be all kinds of metals settling from lots of industries around Paramount," Rangan says. "It's almost like getting a head start on some of these other metals that may be coming from other facilities."

Public Health split the samples it collected in two equal parts, giving half to Paramount officials to send to a lab for testing, he says. The county sent its half to a different lab, Rangan adds. Results from the tests should be available at the end of this month or the beginning of July.

The discovery of high levels of chromium 6 or other metals could spur additional soil testing around homes and in yards, says Rangan.

Additionally, the health department tested the air and dust inside three homes in areas with the highest outdoor chromium 6 readings, Rangan says.

Some of those homes are near Abraham Lincoln Elementary School and Promise Hospital of East Los Angeles, he says, adding, "if we're going to try to determine what the greatest possible risk is going to be, we want to go to where ... the vulnerable populations are."

The school and the hospital are near Anaplex and Aerocraft. 

Rangan says he doesn't expect to find extremely elevated levels of chromium 6 inside homes.

"This is a little bit more for the purposes of study, to determine how much does this slightly higher outdoor level of chromium in Paramount influence the indoor air," he says.

If the tests do reveal elevated indoor levels of the carcinogen, he says, "then it does tell us we've got a higher level of urgency to crack down on these facilities to make sure they keep their emissions under control."

In the case of high indoor levels, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn will want to help provide air filters for those residents, according to a spokeswoman.

Rangan says the county is also talking to the Paramount Unified School District about conducting soil and indoor air tests at Lincoln Elementary School this summer.

Since schools "do a lot in terms of their general hygiene and maintenance," he says, "we don't anticipate we're going to find egregious results at [Abraham Lincoln]."

Chromium 6 has been associated with lung cancer when inhaled over long periods of time, typically years to decades, according to the AQMD.

This story has been updated to include sampling information from the Department of Toxic Substances Control.