The Martin family’s chemical test results

Members of the Martin family are often sick – they have suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, an ovarian cyst, skin rashes, chronic nausea, diarrhea, asthma and depression. Their home south of Los Angeles is surrounded by nearly 2,000 factories, the truck-clogged I-710 freeway and sprawling freight rail yards. The USC Annenberg Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism and California Watch commissioned tests to measure the family's exposure levels to dangerous metals and industrial byproducts. Blood and urine samples were taken in July and November 2010. The results, delivered to the family on Jan. 31, 2011, are below.
The results included unusually high levels of six heavy metals. Several dioxins also were detected.
 
Josefina, 45
Adilene, 22
Anaiz, 21
Sal Jr., 18
Arsenic
What is it?
Uses: Arsenic is used to preserve wood.
Possible health effects: Inorganic arsenic is linked to liver, lung, kidney and bladder cancer. A recent study showed patients reported symptoms like tingling of hands and feet at levels about twice what Sal Jr.'s were. Organic arsenic is harmless. It was not immediately clear what type was in Junior, but further analysis showed no dangerous inorganic arsenic present.
Possible local sources: Arsenic is found in fish and in chromated copper arsenate that was widely used in pressurized lumber for patios and playground equipment for decades. It is still used in some commercial products. Vernon has wood processing and lumber factories a few blocks from Maywood, and Maywood formerly had a lumber plant. Kop-Coat, the successor to the company that invented chromated copper arsenate, had a factory six blocks from the Martins' house, one of several area lumber and furniture manufacturers. A neighbor also formerly made and sprayed furniture in his driveway and backyard, next to Junior's bedroom window.
Urinary total arsenic tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Updated Tables, February 2011 (2007-2008 NHANES survey data)
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Note: Sal Jr.'s arsenic blood sample was reanalyzed to see if any dangerous inorganics were present, and none were detected.
Cadmium
What is it?
Uses: Cadmium is common in lead batteries and other industrial products. People living near hazardous waste sites might be exposed via contaminated food, dust or water. Wal-Mart jewelry and McDonald's Shrek glasses were found to contain cadmium in 2009.
Possible health effects: Chills; fever; muscle ache; tracheobronchitis; pneumonitis; pulmonary edema; cancer; and fatal respiratory, liver or kidney problems could result.
Possible local sources: One of the largest lead battery smelters in the West is less than a mile upwind of the Martins' home. Other area businesses do hazardous waste processing and shipping.
Blood cadmium tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Updated Tables, February 2011 (2007-2008 NHANES survey data)
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Chromium*
What is it?
Uses: Chromium is used for steelmaking, chrome plating, dyes and pigments, leather tanning, and wood preserving.
Possible health effects: Some forms of chromium are beneficial. Certain forms of chromium, notably hexavalent chromium, are toxic and carcinogenic.
Possible local sources: Chromium is common in area industries in wood treatment and other industrial processes. Regional air regulators and state toxics regulators have found hexavalent chromium being emitted and leached into air and water in the area.
*Note: Initial tests measured total levels of chromium; further testing would be needed to gauge the level of hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen.
Urinary chromium tested. Data for average values from Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry toxicological profile, 2008
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Copper
What is it?
Uses: Copper is used to make wire, plumbing pipes, brass and bronze pipes, and sheet metal. Pennies made before 1982 are copper, while those made after 1982 are coated with it. Copper compounds are commonly used to treat plant diseases like mildew, for water treatment and as preservatives for wood, leather and fabrics. Chromated copper arsenate was widely used in pressure-treated "green" outdoor lumber for decades and was invented by the predecessor of Kop-Coat, which operated a large factory near the Martins' home for years.
Possible health effects: Low levels of copper are essential for good health. Breathing high levels of copper can cause irritation of the nose, throat and eyes. Eating or swallowing high levels of copper can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Very high doses can cause damage to the liver and kidneys.
Possible local sources: Copper occurs naturally in plants and animals. It also is used in manufacturing many products. Kop-Coat, a former industrial manufacturer six blocks from the Martins' home, was fined $126,000 by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2009 for processing 276,000 pounds of copper compounds and other hazardous substances and not following proper storage, emissions or reporting requirements. The company paid the fine and said it had ceased operations, but neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing. Copper also has been found in most Superfund sites identified by EPA.
Urinary copper tested. Data for average values from Clinica Chimica Acta 365, "Biomonitoring of 30 trace elements in urine of children and adults by ICP-MS"
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Lead
What is it?
Uses: Lead is used in batteries, bullets, pipes, X-ray shields and other products. It formerly was in gasoline, paint, ceramics and caulking as well.
Possible health effects: The metal affects almost every organ, mainly the nervous system, brain and kidneys. Possible side effects of exposure include loss of IQ; anemia; weakness in fingers, wrist or ankles; infertility and miscarriage; possible severe damage; or death. It is particularly harmful to children. Anaiz suffered lead poisoning as an infant.
Possible local sources: A lead battery smelter upwind of Maywood, ceramics factories, and soil near roadways and industrial sites are all possible sources. Lead paint also might be present in older buildings.
Blood lead tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Updated Tables, February 2011 (2007-2008 NHANES survey data)
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Manganese
What is it?
Uses: Manganese is a byproduct of steelmaking and welding to improve stiffness and strength of products. It also may be used as a gasoline additive to improve the octane rating.
Possible health effects: It is a necessary nutrient in small amounts, but at high levels, it has been linked to central nervous system damage similar to Parkinson's disease, impotence and psychological disturbances.
Possible local sources: Manganese is the main pollutant detected in Maywood drinking water. It occurs naturally in some rock formations but has been found in former steel factories, welding operations and leaking underground fuel storage tanks in and around Maywood. More than half of Superfund sites in the U.S. contain manganese.
Blood manganese tested. Data for average values from Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry toxicological profile, 2008
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Mercury*
What is it?
Uses: Mercury is widely used in manufacturing processes and industrial buildings, for everything from batteries to transformers, sky lifts and large-scale light fixtures. It also had dental and medical uses.
Possible health effects: Mercury, which is extremely toxic and possibly carcinogenic, can damage or fatally injure the brain, nervous system and kidneys in small amounts. In fetuses, infants and children, it affects neurological development, memory, attention, language and other skills.
Possible local sources: It was detected in a Maywood community group water sampling and one state water sample. It's also present in seafood, certain imported soaps, dental or medical treatments, and area heavy industry.
*Note: Initial tests measured total levels of mercury; further testing would be needed to gauge the presence of harmful forms.
Urinary mercury tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Updated Tables, February 2011 (2007-2008 NHANES survey data)
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Vanadium
What is it?
Uses: Vanadium is used to produce specialty steel alloys and in petroleum refineries. It is also part of diesel exhaust and heavy-duty marine shipping fuel.
Possible health effects: Fumes and dust can be toxic or cause respiratory illness. It's also a possible carcinogen.
Possible local sources: Vanadium is found in food, cigarettes and dietary supplements. A former Vernon steel factory left many contaminants in groundwater plumes, and Maywood is heavily exposed to diesel shipping exhaust. The Martins live a quarter-mile from the I-710 freeway and BNSF rail yards, part of the infrastructure that ships 40 percent of all goods imported to the U.S. via freighter ships through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to big-box stores across the nation.
Urinary vanadium tested. Data for average values from Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry toxicological profile, 2009
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Josefina, 45
Adilene, 22
Anaiz, 21
Sal Jr., 18
HpCDD
1,2,3,4,6,7,8-Heptachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin What are dioxins?
Uses: Dioxins are not intentionally manufactured, except for research. They are byproducts of burning, smelting and other chlorinated industrial processes, as well as volcanoes or fires. They are highly persistent and are taken up in plants that are eaten by cows and fish that are then consumed by humans. They can travel around the globe in air emissions or linger in unused attic spaces and body tissue for years.
Possible health effects: Dioxins are powerful carcinogens. Certain dioxins can cause severe skin disease with acne-like lesions that occur mainly on the face and upper body. Changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage also are seen. Exposure to high concentrations of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) may induce long-term alterations in glucose metabolism and subtle changes in hormonal levels.
Possible local sources: Beef, fish and dairy products may contain dioxins. Industrial combustion and waste and water treatment may also be sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released dioxins into the air in crowded Maywood residential streets as part of its initial cleanup of the Pemaco Superfund site in the late 1990s. The site manager at the time said nearby homes were tested, but documents show homes were tested for other dangerous substances, with no mention of dioxins.
Serum 1,2,3,4,6,7,8-Heptachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (lipid adjusted) tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2009 (2003-2004 NHANES survey data)
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HpCDF
1,2,3,4,6,7,8-Heptachlorodibenzofuran What are dioxins?
Uses: Dioxins are not intentionally manufactured, except for research. They are byproducts of burning, smelting and other chlorinated industrial processes, as well as volcanoes or fires. They are highly persistent and are taken up in plants that are eaten by cows and fish that are then consumed by humans. They can travel around the globe in air emissions or linger in unused attic spaces and body tissue for years.
Possible health effects: Dioxins are powerful carcinogens. Certain dioxins can cause severe skin disease with acne-like lesions that occur mainly on the face and upper body. Changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage also are seen. Exposure to high concentrations of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) may induce long-term alterations in glucose metabolism and subtle changes in hormonal levels.
Possible local sources: Beef, fish and dairy products may contain dioxins. Industrial combustion and waste and water treatment may also be sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released dioxins into the air in crowded Maywood residential streets as part of its initial cleanup of the Pemaco Superfund site in the late 1990s. The site manager at the time said nearby homes were tested, but documents show homes were tested for other dangerous substances, with no mention of dioxins.
Serum 1,2,3,4,6,7,8-Heptachlorodibenzofuran (lipid adjusted) tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2009 (2003-2004 NHANES survey data)
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HxCDD
1,2,3,6,7,8-Hexachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin What are dioxins?
Uses: Dioxins are not intentionally manufactured, except for research. They are byproducts of burning, smelting and other chlorinated industrial processes, as well as volcanoes or fires. They are highly persistent and are taken up in plants that are eaten by cows and fish that are then consumed by humans. They can travel around the globe in air emissions or linger in unused attic spaces and body tissue for years.
Possible health effects: Dioxins are powerful carcinogens. Certain dioxins can cause severe skin disease with acne-like lesions that occur mainly on the face and upper body. Changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage also are seen. Exposure to high concentrations of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) may induce long-term alterations in glucose metabolism and subtle changes in hormonal levels.
Possible local sources: Beef, fish and dairy products may contain dioxins. Industrial combustion and waste and water treatment may also be sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released dioxins into the air in crowded Maywood residential streets as part of its initial cleanup of the Pemaco Superfund site in the late 1990s. The site manager at the time said nearby homes were tested, but documents show homes were tested for other dangerous substances, with no mention of dioxins.
Serum 1,2,3,6,7,8-Hexachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (lipid adjusted) tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2009 (2003-2004 NHANES survey data)
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HxCDD
1,2,3,4,7,8-Hexachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin What are dioxins?
Uses: Dioxins are not intentionally manufactured, except for research. They are byproducts of burning, smelting and other chlorinated industrial processes, as well as volcanoes or fires. They are highly persistent and are taken up in plants that are eaten by cows and fish that are then consumed by humans. They can travel around the globe in air emissions or linger in unused attic spaces and body tissue for years.
Possible health effects: Dioxins are powerful carcinogens. Certain dioxins can cause severe skin disease with acne-like lesions that occur mainly on the face and upper body. Changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage also are seen. Exposure to high concentrations of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) may induce long-term alterations in glucose metabolism and subtle changes in hormonal levels.
Possible local sources: Beef, fish and dairy products may contain dioxins. Industrial combustion and waste and water treatment may also be sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released dioxins into the air in crowded Maywood residential streets as part of its initial cleanup of the Pemaco Superfund site in the late 1990s. The site manager at the time said nearby homes were tested, but documents show homes were tested for other dangerous substances, with no mention of dioxins.
Serum 1,2,3,4,7,8-Hexachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (lipid adjusted) tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2009 (2003-2004 NHANES survey data)
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HxCDF
2,3,4,6,7,8-Hexachlorodibenzofuran What are dioxins?
Uses: Dioxins are not intentionally manufactured, except for research. They are byproducts of burning, smelting and other chlorinated industrial processes, as well as volcanoes or fires. They are highly persistent and are taken up in plants that are eaten by cows and fish that are then consumed by humans. They can travel around the globe in air emissions or linger in unused attic spaces and body tissue for years.
Possible health effects: Dioxins are powerful carcinogens. Certain dioxins can cause severe skin disease with acne-like lesions that occur mainly on the face and upper body. Changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage also are seen. Exposure to high concentrations of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) may induce long-term alterations in glucose metabolism and subtle changes in hormonal levels.
Possible local sources: Beef, fish and dairy products may contain dioxins. Industrial combustion and waste and water treatment may also be sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released dioxins into the air in crowded Maywood residential streets as part of its initial cleanup of the Pemaco Superfund site in the late 1990s. The site manager at the time said nearby homes were tested, but documents show homes were tested for other dangerous substances, with no mention of dioxins.
Serum 2,3,4,6,7,8-Hexachlorodibenzofuran (lipid adjusted) tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2009 (2003-2004 NHANES survey data)
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HxCDF
1,2,3,6,7,8-Hexachlorodibenzofuran What are dioxins?
Uses: Dioxins are not intentionally manufactured, except for research. They are byproducts of burning, smelting and other chlorinated industrial processes, as well as volcanoes or fires. They are highly persistent and are taken up in plants that are eaten by cows and fish that are then consumed by humans. They can travel around the globe in air emissions or linger in unused attic spaces and body tissue for years.
Possible health effects: Dioxins are powerful carcinogens. Certain dioxins can cause severe skin disease with acne-like lesions that occur mainly on the face and upper body. Changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage also are seen. Exposure to high concentrations of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) may induce long-term alterations in glucose metabolism and subtle changes in hormonal levels.
Possible local sources: Beef, fish and dairy products may contain dioxins. Industrial combustion and waste and water treatment may also be sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released dioxins into the air in crowded Maywood residential streets as part of its initial cleanup of the Pemaco Superfund site in the late 1990s. The site manager at the time said nearby homes were tested, but documents show homes were tested for other dangerous substances, with no mention of dioxins.
Serum 1,2,3,6,7,8-Hexachlorodibenzofuran (lipid adjusted) tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2009 (2003-2004 NHANES survey data)
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HxCDF
1,2,3,4,7,8-Hexachlorodibenzofuran What are dioxins?
Uses: Dioxins are not intentionally manufactured, except for research. They are byproducts of burning, smelting and other chlorinated industrial processes, as well as volcanoes or fires. They are highly persistent and are taken up in plants that are eaten by cows and fish that are then consumed by humans. They can travel around the globe in air emissions or linger in unused attic spaces and body tissue for years.
Possible health effects: Dioxins are powerful carcinogens. Certain dioxins can cause severe skin disease with acne-like lesions that occur mainly on the face and upper body. Changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage also are seen. Exposure to high concentrations of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) may induce long-term alterations in glucose metabolism and subtle changes in hormonal levels.
Possible local sources: Beef, fish and dairy products may contain dioxins. Industrial combustion and waste and water treatment may also be sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released dioxins into the air in crowded Maywood residential streets as part of its initial cleanup of the Pemaco Superfund site in the late 1990s. The site manager at the time said nearby homes were tested, but documents show homes were tested for other dangerous substances, with no mention of dioxins.
Serum 1,2,3,4,7,8-Hexachlorodibenzofuran (lipid adjusted) tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2009 (2003-2004 NHANES survey data)
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OCDD
1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9-Octachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin What are dioxins?
Uses: Dioxins are not intentionally manufactured, except for research. They are byproducts of burning, smelting and other chlorinated industrial processes, as well as volcanoes or fires. They are highly persistent and are taken up in plants that are eaten by cows and fish that are then consumed by humans. They can travel around the globe in air emissions or linger in unused attic spaces and body tissue for years.
Possible health effects: Dioxins are powerful carcinogens. Certain dioxins can cause severe skin disease with acne-like lesions that occur mainly on the face and upper body. Changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage also are seen. Exposure to high concentrations of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) may induce long-term alterations in glucose metabolism and subtle changes in hormonal levels.
Possible local sources: Beef, fish and dairy products may contain dioxins. Industrial combustion and waste and water treatment may also be sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released dioxins into the air in crowded Maywood residential streets as part of its initial cleanup of the Pemaco Superfund site in the late 1990s. The site manager at the time said nearby homes were tested, but documents show homes were tested for other dangerous substances, with no mention of dioxins.
Serum 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9-Octachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (lipid adjusted) tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2009 (2003-2004 NHANES survey data)
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PeCDF
2,3,4,7,8-Pentachlorodibenzofuran What are dioxins?
Uses: Dioxins are not intentionally manufactured, except for research. They are byproducts of burning, smelting and other chlorinated industrial processes, as well as volcanoes or fires. They are highly persistent and are taken up in plants that are eaten by cows and fish that are then consumed by humans. They can travel around the globe in air emissions or linger in unused attic spaces and body tissue for years.
Possible health effects: Dioxins are powerful carcinogens. Certain dioxins can cause severe skin disease with acne-like lesions that occur mainly on the face and upper body. Changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage also are seen. Exposure to high concentrations of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) may induce long-term alterations in glucose metabolism and subtle changes in hormonal levels.
Possible local sources: Beef, fish and dairy products may contain dioxins. Industrial combustion and waste and water treatment may also be sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released dioxins into the air in crowded Maywood residential streets as part of its initial cleanup of the Pemaco Superfund site in the late 1990s. The site manager at the time said nearby homes were tested, but documents show homes were tested for other dangerous substances, with no mention of dioxins.
Serum 2,3,4,7,8-Pentachlorodibenzofuran (lipid adjusted) tested. Data for average values from Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2009 (2003-2004 NHANES survey data)
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Key
ND = Not detected, which could mean that the substance was not present or that the substance was present below the limit of detection.
NC* = Not calculated, meaning the proportion of survey results below the limit of detection was too high to provide a valid result. The line shows the limit of detection for each substance in the comparison survey.
Health effects information comes from the World Health Organization, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state public health departments, and California Watch interviews.
Graphic by Michael Corey. Reporting by Janet Wilson.
Filed under: Health and Welfare