LETTER: ‘Let’s Talk about Arsenic and Lead in Soils…’

Dear SeaTac City Council,

Lets talk about arsenic and lead in soils given the wonderful presentation by the Department of Ecology (DOE) at the SeaTac Council Meeting 02/28/12 and how this most likely will go too far.

Step 1. Department of Ecology scares crap out of parents over trace amounts of lead and arsenic in park and school soils from legacy Arsarco Smelter or whomever/whatever.

Step 2. Taxpayers pay through the nose for testing everything and its brother on public lands and parks.

Step 3. DOE finds small patches (very small) that have higher concentrations of arsenic and lead and the grand solution is to plant grass (duh) and/or replace soil with “fresh” soil that is untested (per their own answers).

Step 4. Place signs in areas and print more expensive brochures to make sure everyone is adequately outraged/scared as to keep funding for arsenic/lead testing program and DOE can expand hiring/regulations.

Step 5. *OPTIONAL. Blame low test scores and school district failure/s on soil contamination.

Step 6. “ASK” homeowners and private property owners to test their own soil for arsenic/lead, at ~ $50 a pop (paid by the property owner), and log results into local, county, and state database.

Step 7. DEMAND as a prerequisite of any permit (building, remodel, etc.) that soil be replaced based on the previously collected data voluntarily provided in the “ask” part. Paid for again, of course, by the property owner. *New soil must be obtained from a government certified soil provider (coming soon).

Step 8. Require jurisdictions to hire permanent soil specialists as part of the GMA (Growth Management Act) and lay off a couple of cops and/or firefighters in case the jurisdiction can’t pay for the soil guy/gal.

Step 9. Bury any studies that contradict DOE findings.

Step 10. Find the next bugaboo/chemical and repeat all steps, inserting the name and substance of choice.

There is a more common sense solution. Wash your hands before eating and don’t wallow around in stuff that smells or looks funny. This still won’t protect you but you will feel just as good about it and not walk around in fear of your shadow.  No one said the world is a safe/fair place and there are no guarantees that something bad will not happen to you intentionally or otherwise even if you can’t see it coming.

Good luck!

– Earl Gipson (the Cactus)

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4 Responses to “LETTER: ‘Let’s Talk about Arsenic and Lead in Soils…’”
  1. Vicki Lockwood says:

    Mr. Cactus~
    You are soooo right! Common sense carried our ancestors through thousands of years, and it would continue to serve us well if we would allow people to use it. No, I don’t go around drinking paint with lead in it or eating homemade mud pies from my back yard, but then we didn’t do that BEFORE all this testing and quarantining and saving us from us that’s going on today. Good grief, we are all going to die from something and at some time. The most sickly kids in my school when I was a kid were the ones whose mother never let them get dirty, never let them be sneezed on by another kid, etc. The ones who seldom got sick were the ones who had built up an immunity to the run of the mill everyday germs because they actually lived in their environment, played in the dirt, hugged a sick friend with a runny nose, blah blah blah. I’m with you … get over it germ freaks! For every germ you eliminate two super-germs will evolve to replace it.
    Vicki Lockwood
    p.s. I’ve been searching for years for someone who got lead poisoning from chewing on the window seals of a “pre-latex paint” house. If anyone can document such a happening, I’d be delighted if you’d share the story.

    • Outside Observer says:

      Vicki Lockwood,

      Arsenic and lead are heavy metals, not germs. You can’t create two “super-arsenics” by trying to eliminate the arsenic from the ASARCO smelter’s plume. You can’t even make ONE. These are metals therefore are not biological; when you remove them from the soil, the only way the come back again is if they are reintroduced by further pollution. Since ASARCO is gone, presumably that would not be an issue.

      Based on that bit of knowledge, your example about sickly kids doesn’t exactly apply here. Like I said, arsenic and lead aren’t “germs” that you “build immunity” to; quite the contrary, like mercury and other heavy metals, their affects on the body’s systems are cumulative. Arsenic is a known carcinogen and lead is a possible carcinogen. Both are associated with various respiratory and neurological conditions resulting from daily exposure to even small levels, and those associations have been shown by numerous medical studies. A Google search will give you a number of hits for the effects of lead poisoning. Here’s a news article from 2010 that popped up in my quick search:


      No one is stopping anyone from using common sense here. Mr. Gipson’s nanny state fears not withstanding, the public can only make informed decisions if they have accurate data to base their decisions on in the first place. I figured that you and Mr. Gipson of all people would appreciate having that sort of information publicly available.

  2. Dorinda says:

    Another paid political announcement by Outside Observer. Arsenic and lead are
    naturally occurring substances in the environment and it is well known that
    humans develop tolerances for these elements/substances if and when exposed.
    Viruses and germs mutate. Sneezing on people won’t give you lead or arsenic
    poisoning but just in case Outside Observer should stay away from public
    gatherings. The lead seems to be prevalent in his/her area and we don’t want
    them coughing up the paint/soil they ate as a child or voluntarily as an adult.

    There are just as many studies that counter the claims of either side so stop
    worrying. You may just have dumb, poorly raised, and/or sickly kids. That may be
    more genetics than environment.

    • Outside Observer says:


      There are a lot of naturally occurring substances that don’t mix well with human physiology. Sulfuric acid is naturally occurring, but it’s not something you want to be immersing yourself in. Mercury is also naturally occurring. Does that mean you’re willing to drink a glass of it with breakfast? Show me your studies that say it’s perfectly safe to ingest lead and arsenic. Seriously, I’d like to see them.

      Yes, you can build a tolerance to small lethal doses of arsenic in the short term, but I have never seen a study that suggests that doing so doesn’t have serious health consequences from its cumulative effects in the long run. I have not seen studies showing a similar ability to build a tolerance to lead, but regardless, it would have similar long-term effects even if you could. So again, please share your studies that show that lead and arsenic are harmless, because I have never seen such a study. If there are “just as many” of those studies as there are studies showing that those two metals are bad for human physiology, I’m surprised I haven’t seen any…and especially that they don’t show up readily on an internet search. Do you happen to have one handy?