State: Portland's Toxic Health Risk Low, Despite High Arsenic Levels

Oregon regulators said Thursday air and soil samples continue to show low health risks for Portland residents. But the level of arsenic in some areas is elevated.

A new test for arsenic around Uroboros Glass in North Portland showed levels several times higher than the state guideline.

But David Farrer with the Oregon Health Authority said people needn’t be concerned.

“When there’s an exceedance of a screening level found, that does not automatically mean that there’s a public health risk," Farrer said. "But it does mean that we need to do additional analysis, and found that the risk was low.”

Farrer said the test seemed high because Oregon’s guidelines are too conservative. It assumes 100 percent of the arsenic in a contaminated soil will be absorbed by the body. Farrer said some studies show absorption rates can be as low as 10 percent.

Concerns about toxic air started last month after high levels of heavy metals were found around glass manufacturers in the city.

Since then, Uroboros has signed an agreement not to use the heavy metals without a filter. Bullseye Glass remains in negotiations.

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