A lot of people who live, work, or send their children to school near SE Powell and 22nd, where elevated levels of arsenic and cadmium have been found, are rightfully concerned and wonder if they should get themselves and/or their children tested. In Dirk's post from last night, the Oregon Health Authority didn't see the urgency of getting tested right away, but many parents and residents would rather feel safe than sorry.

I spoke with Dr. Gillian Beauchamp, a Toxicology Fellow at the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU to get her take on testing for arsenic and cadmium, and what to ask for and expect if you're doing it.

First of all, if you're concerned you or your child may have elevated amounts of these heavy metals, Dr. Beauchamp recommends you go to your personal care provider or pediatrician and get the test. That's not to say there's great cause for concern, however. Cadmium and arsenic's longterm effect on the body (explained a bit more here) can take decades to materialize, and one must be exposed to it for a very long time for it to cause real damage. (Both of these toxins exist everywhere on earth in small doses and we're exposed to them constantly.) So far, the tests that have been administered by Oregon Poison Control for people involved in this incident have not yielded any significant worries.

That being said, if you're still concerned, Dr. Beauchamp says, "go for it." Go to your primary care physician or pediatrician and ask for a "spot urine test for cadmium and arsenic." It's non-invasive and super simple. Make sure to inform your health care provider that Oregon Poison Control has a fact sheet which will inform them how to do it correctly, and which specific lab to send it to (that's important). Again, Dr. Beauchamp stresses that kids probably haven't been alive long enough to take in a dangerous amount of these heavy metals (yes, even if they're dirt eaters).

However, on the off chance the results do come back as slightly elevated, your physician may ask for another test. If that one yields higher results, coming in far above the threshold, the patient may be put on the medication Succimer—an oral medication that's a heavy metal chelating agent, meaning it grabs hold of or binds the heavy metals in order to remove them from the body. Again, worse case scenario. Since our bodies already store some icky heavy metals in our bones and teeth, Dr. Beauchamp warns against cures that would "stir things up" thereby mobilizing the stored up toxins.

Otherwise, the best cure for slightly elevated amounts of cadmium and arsenic are "time and distance." In time the body will flush out the toxins as long as the patient stays away from the area until it's deemed safe by the DEQ and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

LONG STORY SHORT from Oregon Poison Control: Get checked, don't panic—unless you've been exposed to decades of this stuff, you're probably fine.


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