Department of Health pilot project would test children for arsenic


Proposal to be presented at Dec. 6 public meeting

As the Environmental Protection Agency expands its cleanup of arsenic in South Minneapolis yards, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) may take the effort to another level by also measuring children who live in the area for the contaminant.

The department is proposing a pilot “bio-monitoring” project that would test 100 children who live near the CMC Heartland Site, where arsenic-containing pesticides were manufactured and stored between 1938 and 1963. The project would likely begin next summer.

MDH staff will present preliminary plans for the pilot project and ask for comments during a public meeting at the Midtown YWCA, 2121 E. Lake St., on Thursday, Dec. 6.

The pilot project will measure for elevated levels of arsenic in children in South Minneapolis by testing samples of urine, hair, blood, or other body tissue. Participation is voluntary, with demographic and exposure factors weighing in the selection process.

Results will be shared with the family. While the testing would not show whether illnesses or health conditions are caused by exposure to the chemicals, families with children showing high levels will be advised to bring the child to a doctor, and the MDH will offer information about how children might have been exposed and how to take steps to prevent exposure in the future.

“Biomonitoring measurements can be a good way to determine exposure to a chemical — especially for chemicals that linger in the body — because they indicate the amount of the chemical that actually gets into people, rather than the amount that could potentially get into them,” said Jean Johnson, a program director at MDH, in a press release.

The pilot project is one of four currently proposed as part of a potentially permanent MDH biomonitoring program, called for by the legislature this year.

For more information on the project, visit

Read about the Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing, and recently expanded, arsenic cleanup here.