The influence of soil remediation on lead in house dust

Ian H. Von Lindern, Susan M. Spalinger, Bridget N. Bero, Varduhi Petrosyan, Margrit C. Von Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Lead in house dust has long been recognized as a principal source of excess lead absorption among children at the Bunker Hill Superfund Site (BHSS) in northern Idaho. House dust lead concentration from homeowner's vacuum cleaner bags has been monitored since the epidemic of childhood lead poisoning in 1974. Geometric mean house dust lead concentrations decreased from >10000 mg/kg in 1974 to approximately 4000 mg/kg in 1975, in response to air pollution control initiatives at the defective primary lead smelter. After smelter closure, 1983 mean dust lead concentrations were near 3000 mg/kg and were most dependent on soil sources. Following emergency soil removals from public areas and roadsides and fugitive dust control efforts in the mid-1980s, house dust lead decreased by approximately 40-60% to 1200-1500 mg/kg. In 1992, a cleanup goal of 500 mg/kg dust lead community average, with no individual home exceeding 1000 mg/kg, was adopted. This goal was to be achieved by a combination of contaminated soil removals and fugitive dust control efforts throughout the 21 square mile BHSS. Continual reductions in house dust lead concentrations have been noted throughout the residential area soil cleanup. Geometric mean house dust lead concentrations averaged approximately 500-600 mg/kg from 1996 to 1999 and dropped below 500 mg/kg in 2000. Analysis of these data indicates that approximately 20% of the variance in dust lead concentrations is attributed to yard, neighborhood, and community soil lead concentrations. Since 1996, dust lead concentrations and dust and lead loading rates have also been measured by dust mats placed at entryways into the homes. Neighborhood soil lead concentrations, household hygiene, the number of adults living in the home, and the number of hours a child spends outdoors in summer explain approximately 26% of the variance in mat dust lead loading rates. It is estimated that post-remedial house dust lead concentrations will stabilize at 400-500 mg/kg, as compared to approximately 200 mg/kg in socio-economically similar background communities; the difference possibly attributed to residual soil concentrations (3-6 times background), recontamination of rights-of-way, tracking of non-residential mining district soils and dusts, fugitive dusts associated with the remediation, and residual structural or carpet dusts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-78
Number of pages20
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 15 2003


  • Bunker Hill Superfund Site
  • Cleanup
  • House dust
  • Lead
  • Remediation
  • Soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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