Researchers offer free lead tests to residents in Westside superfund zone

In this Aug. 23, 2016 photo, a sign from the Environmental Protection Agency is posted in front of West Calumet Housing Complex houses at East Chicago, Ind. The EPA is now proposing that some residential areas in Atlanta’s Westside be designated a Superfund site to prioritize removing high levels of lead from the soil.

Tae-Gyun Kim / AP Photo

Researchers from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Emory University are launching a new study this spring to test the blood of residents on Atlanta’s Westside for lead.

More than 2,000 residential properties in the Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods are part of a superfund area designated for cleanup by the EPA.

Emory University associate professor of environmental sciences Eri Saikawa, who specializes in air quality, climate change and heavy metals soil contamination and began studying lead contamination in west Atlanta in 2018, and her research team are offering free lead poisoning tests to superfund-area residents.

“We hope that many people will join us coming from the Westside. We are going to make that available for everybody that comes, not just for children but also for adults as well,” Saikawa says. “We’ve heard from some people that they are worried about older age children, too.”

The free blood tests are part of the ongoing joint effort by the EPA and Emory scientists to study and clean up high levels of lead contamination linked to a history of industry on the Westside. The agency recently added the superfund site to its National Priorities List, opening up more avenues for federal funding to help with mitigation.

“EPA recognizes that no community deserves to have contaminated sites near where they live, work, pray, and go to school,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a news release.

Saikawa urges anyone concerned about lead exposure near the superfund site to take advantage of her free blood testing program, set for April 23 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Westside Promise Youth Center located at 740 Cameron Madison Alexander Blvd NW, Atlanta, GA 30318.