No sign of elevated lead in the blood of Sandy residents after the big water contamination

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Horse owner Kay Freeman has water containers filled with potable water on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, by Jason Hunt with Sandy City after finding out that her horses could also be affected by high levels of lead and copper in the water. The city says the problem started about Feb. 6, when a fluoride pump malfunctioned because of a power outage. It flooded the water system with fluoride and that also led to high levels of lead and copper, enough that it made some people sick.

Tests taken after Sandy’s recent water contamination found no sign of elevated lead levels in residents’ blood, the Salt Lake County Health Department reports.

Intermountain Healthcare administered 704 blood tests between Feb. 23 and March 8 to residents of the three zones in Sandy where fluoride, copper and lead leaked into the water system. Of those tested, only one — an adult over 65 – was found with a lead level of 5.1 micrograms per deciliter of blood, above the level where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends launching public health actions.

One out of 704 is lower than what the county health department would statistically expect for a population that size, based on the expected prevalence of elevated blood lead levels across the county.

Health officials said they expect the Sandy water contamination — which began Feb. 6 when a power outage caused a malfunction in one of the city’s pumps — is unlikely to cause long-term health damage to residents in the area. This is what health officials predicted before the tests were administered.

“We are grateful that these results confirm for those screened that any potential exposure to elevated levels of lead in this incident was indeed brief enough to not cause elevated blood lead levels,” Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, said in a statement.

Lead is common enough in the environment that health officials recommend all pregnant women and children under 6 years old, in Sandy or not, get a blood lead test from their health care provider.

The most common source of lead is old paint in homes built before 1978. Lead also can be found in such common products as jewelry, tableware, charms, ammunition, fishing sinkers, stained glass, miniblinds, roofing and artificial turf. It can also be found in toys made in countries without strict safety guidelines.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality cited Sandy for the excess fluoride.