Crohn’s Disease Linked to Lead Smelting Pollution

by jim on August 13, 2012

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's Disease are similar debilitating diseases of the digestive system which can include symptoms like severe abdominal pain and diarrhea. About a million and a half people in the US have the condition, which many researchers now believe to be linked to environmental causes.

A Harvard Medical School study recently added to the evidence of such a link when it identified a cluster of suffers in extreme northern Washington state who live in proximity to an old lead and zinc smelter on the other side of the US-Canadian border. That smelter has been the source of complaints about pollution in the US as far back as the 1930's, when compensation for pollution damage was recommended by the Border Commission. Harvard doctors, including lead researcher Dr. Josh Korzenik, asked approximately 120 former and current  residents of Northport, Washington to take a health survey. 17 of them had Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's.

“That’s about 10 to 15 times what we’d expect to see in a population the size of Northport,” said Korzenik, director of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, one of Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospitals. “I’m not aware of any other cluster like it.

But that could be because no one has looked. What kind of health survey logistics would it take to bring a similar study to Frisco, where emissions from the Exide lead smelter have been coating the surrounding areas for almost 50 years? Who would think that these symptoms could be linked to smelter emissions? Respiratory problems, IQ and developmental issues, even deafness, but not chronic stomach ailments. This is just one more disease that Frisco residents will have to try to determine if the Exide smelter is leaving behind as part of its toxic legacy.


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