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Environment

With Lead In The News, King County Gives Tips On Protecting Yourself From Contaminated Soil

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"handful of cherry tomatoes" by barbbarbbarb licensed by CC BY 2.0

The Tacoma Public School District has been scrambling to make sure its water is safe to drink after some schools showed high levels of lead, but water isn’t the only potential source of lead exposure – contaminated soil is also a risk. 

The ASARCO copper smelter in Ruston shut down in 1986, but even three decades later, the soil in Thurston, Pierce and King counties bears the legacy of that tall smokestack.

"What happened was the wind carried all the pollution all up and around the smelter and then depending on how the wind was blowing, it blew far," said Denise Sharify, a health educator with the King County Dirt Alert program.

She said ASARCO left behind lead and arsenic in the soil. In King County, Vashon and Maury Islands are the places that are most affected.

Here are some things you should do to protect yourself: garden in raised beds, wash the fruits and vegetables that you grow in your yard, mop and dust your house often, and wash hands often, especially kids' hands. 

"No amount of lead and arsenic is safe for children," Sharify said.