Addressing Citizen Concern: Analysis of Heavy Metal Contamination in East Chicago, Indiana

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Julie Peller and Dr. Christopher Iceman


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Summer 7-31-2017


In East Chicago, Indiana, decades of industrial work led to heavy metals contamination to the surrounding environment. One residential area was built on an abandoned lead processing site, and lead soil levels measured well above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits in the 1990s. In 2009, the East Chicago site was added to the Federal Facilities National Priorities List (NPL), and the EPA designated it as a priority Superfund Site. While remediation measures have been underway by the EPA, the agency is not able to measure all possible places for metal contamination for all the residents. Therefore, we have investigated additional samples obtained from residents: dry soil, water, chipped paint and dust samples. Total acid digests have been performed on samples from 2016 and 2017 to determine the total metal concentrations. The samples have been analyzed using Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES). While we screened for 17 metals, analysis was focused on arsenic and lead. In each of the two years, two of the three vacuum bag samples indicated high levels of lead (>400 ppm), whereas all of the soil samples indicated high levels of arsenic (>0.68 ppm). Future work will focus on gastric and lung Physiologically Based Extraction Tests (PBETs) along with analysis for other organic chemicals and toxins in the environment.

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