Source Contribution to Soil Lead Contamination - the Role of Common Urban Residential Lead Sources and Major Industrial Sources in a Complex Urban Residential Environment

Authors: Kate Vavra-Musser*, University of Southern California, An-Min Wu, University of Southern California, Jill Johnston, University of Southern California
Topics: Geography and Urban Health, Hazards and Vulnerability, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: lead contamination, human health, environmental health
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 41
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Lead is a known neurotoxin which remains an important potential cause of adverse health outcomes. Contact with lead-contaminated soil is a key lead exposure pathway, especially for young children. Although lead has been removed from widespread use, residual contamination from historic sources persists in soil for decades and lead-emitting facilities continue to contribute soil lead concentration.

This research works to quantify the contribution of multiple potential sources of lead to soil lead contamination in a complex urban residential environment. The study uses a dataset of approximately 190,000 soil samples collected in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and tested for lead. The relationship between soil lead concentration and proximity to potential historic sources such as major roads (historic gasoline emissions), gasoline-related businesses, or industrial facilities, and characteristics of the urban environment such as older housing stock (possible lead paint presence) or administrative regions were assessed using linear regression.

Preliminary findings suggest that major roads, businesses related to gasoline or cars, and non-lead-processing industrial facilities are associated with significantly elevated soil lead levels up to a distance of approximately 30 to 50 meters while lead-processing facilities have a much further spatial impact from around 400m to over 3000m. While residing near one potential source may not be sufficient to result in a hazardous soil lead level, multiple proximal sources will have a compounding effect. The results highlight the importance of a local-scale, multi-source approach to assess environmental lead risk in an urban environment.

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