Decades of intensive industrial and agricultural practices as well as rapid urbanization have left communities like Pueblo, Colorado facing potential health threats from pollution of its soils, air, water and food supply. To address such concerns about environmental contamination, we conducted an urban geochemical study of the city of Pueblo to offer insights into the potential chemical hazards in soil and inform priorities for future health studies and population interventions aimed at reducing exposures to inorganic substances. The current study characterizes the environmental landscape of Pueblo in terms of heavy metals, and relates this to population distributions. Soil was sampled within the city along transects and analyzed for arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg) and lead (Pb). We also profiled Pueblo's communities in terms of their socioeconomic status and demographics. ArcGIS 9.0 was used to perform exploratory spatial data analysis and generate community profiles and prediction maps. The topsoil in Pueblo contains more As, Cd, Hg and Pb than national soil averages, although average Hg content in Pueblo was within reported baseline ranges. The highest levels of As concentrations ranged between 56.6 and 66.5 ppm. Lead concentrations exceeded 300 ppm in several of Pueblo's residential communities. Elevated levels of lead are concentrated in low-income Hispanic and African-American communities. Areas of excessively high Cd concentration exist around Pueblo, including low income and minority communities, raising additional health and environmental justice concerns. Although the distribution patterns vary by element and may reflect both industrial and non-industrial sources, the study confirms that there is environmental contamination around Pueblo and underscores the need for a comprehensive public health approach to address environmental threats in urban communities. ?? Springer 2006.
Additional publication details
Arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in surface soils, Pueblo, Colorado: Implications for population health risk