- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - In a significant turnaround, Oregon officials are clamping down on lead levels in Portland’s air.

Officials say a one-day spike in airborne lead at a daycare center led Gov. Kate Brown to issue an order Thursday requiring Bullseye Glass in Portland to stop burning toxic metals in unfiltered furnaces, reported The Oregonian/Oregon Live (https://bit.ly/1sxfPRb).

State health officials said the levels of lead, a potent neurotoxin, found at the Children’s Creative Learning Center were capable of permanently lowering a child’s IQ.

“This situation with vulnerable children in close proximity clearly called for urgency,” said Lynne Saxton, director of the Oregon Health Authority. “This reinforces how important it is to take immediate action to protect public health if emissions become dangerous.”

For months, however, regulators had ignored the discovery of lead in Southeast Portland’s air and excluded lead from rules meant to control Bullseye’s pollution.

Air testing in February found that the October 29 lead concentration was 1.6 times above the state’s short-term safety goal.

Neighbors called for an immediate shutdown of Bullseye after the February results and wanted to prohibit any use of heavy metals without pollution controls. The state continued allowing the company to use lead, cobalt and other metals, however, and the environmental agency limited restrictions to a few metals found at levels that would increase someone’s lifetime cancer risk.

“We were terrified, knowing that they were continuing to pollute,” said Jess Beebe, who lives near Bullseye. She says her blood has tested above-average for lead levels. “It warranted the strong action that Kate Brown took. I wish she had done it earlier.”

State officials didn’t take strong action until Thursday, when a single reading found a lead concentration 2.7 times higher than the standard.

Portland clean air advocate Mary Peveto, president of Neighbors for Clean Air, said the governor’s order signals a dramatic change in how the state Department of Environmental Quality handles air pollution concerns.

“The system was a sham,” said Peveto. “This is setting an earth-moving precedent. This is a massive shift in terms of what the state is now saying is actionable.”

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, https://www.oregonlive.com

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