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More East Chicago Residents Have Elevated Blood Lead Levels

The City of East Chicago offers free blood lead test to all residents.

Photo: IPBS News

The City of East Chicago offers free blood lead test to all residents.

Residents living next to a lead contaminated neighborhood in East Chicago, Indiana are now testing positive for lead. The results come after the city expanded blood testing services this summer.

So far, 21 residents of a housing complex outside the lead contaminated clean-up site have been tested for lead. Some have elevated blood lead levels. City officials couldn’t say how many.

All of those residents live in the John B. Nicosia Senior Building. The levels are not as high as those of people living on the cleanup site.  While results are elevated, none were over the level that the federal government formally considers unsafe, although health officials say lead at any level is concerning.

It’s not clear how many more people total tested positive in East Chicago. City attorney Carla Morgan says the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is still finalizing many of those results.

“So we’re actually waiting for them to tell us, you know, where are the excessive — people with excessive blood lead levels, where are they residing,” Morgan says.

“Some were asking for replacement housing quickly, some were asking for lead abatement, some were asking just for some certainty.”

—Carla Morgan, City Attorney

Nicosia residents were concerned with the quality of their housing even before they started testing positive for lead. City attorney Carla Morgan says East Chicago’s building commissioner requested back in March that the city tear down the Nicosia building because it was old and unsafe. Morgan says residents have many different concerns.

“Some were asking for replacement housing quickly, some were asking for lead abatement, some were asking just for some certainty,” Morgan says.

No demolition plans for the Nicosia building currently exist. Morgan says there’s not enough affordable housing in northwest Indiana — a problem West Calumet Housing Complex residents are currently struggling with.

“We didn’t want to throw the Nicosia residents into chaos,” Morgan says.

News of lead contamination at the Nicosia building comes almost six months after Mayor Anthony Copeland ordered the West Calumet Housing Complex torn down because of lead contamination there. That building sits on the USS Lead Superfund site.

In an emailed statement, the East Chicago Housing Authority said it currently has no plans to offer on-site blood or soil lead testing at other public housing complexes in the city.

READ MORE: For the most recent stories on East Chicago’s lead crisis go to lakeshorepublicmedia.org

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