The results, along with dozens of others available on the county web site, offered a dizzying array of information: pages of charts with some spots showing allowable levels of heavy metals and others showing sharp spikes in arsenic and lead.
Search for answers
Neighbors and parents, understandably, are reeling, pulled between having enough information to be concerned, but not enough to know how concerned.
I would love to have some real answers, said Dawn McCarthy, who took her 4-year-old and 7-month-old daughters to Blanche Park with a group of moms who met almost daily and planned Halloween, Christmas and Valentines parties. I feel like I just dont know whats going on.
Mark Anthony, whose 5-year-old daughter visited the park daily with his wife, took matters into his own hands. Two weeks ago, after the county health department told him it was not yet testing children, he sent a clipping of his daughters hair to a lab he found online. On Thursday, he got results that indicated she had high levels of lead and mercury. He has called his pediatrician for a follow-up appointment.
Its surprising since were very careful and very organically-based food wise, said Anthony, who lives on Shipping Avenue near the park. Were just trying to narrow it down to figure out why her level of things are so high.
Tracing contamination is a complicated science. Water contamination, which has not been found in the Grove, poses a far higher risk than soil contamination. And contamination depends not just on exposure to a toxin, but how long that exposure lasts and how it happened. Was it ingested, absorbed or inhaled?
The reality is the chances of human exposure to contaminants do exist. But does it mean we should panic? Gurpal S. Toor, a University of Florida associate professor who studies pollution in urban landscapes, wrote in an email.
A lot more testing needs to be done to determine not only whats in the soil, but what risk it poses, he said. Even so, the risk of contamination from soil is minimal.
The chances of kids getting in contact with arsenic bound in soil is very, very low, he explained. There has to be physical contact in order to blame that source.
The county and city are continuing to take samples while they await findings. They have some results for heavy metals, but none for dioxins, a soup of chemicals considered far more dangerous.
Already, workers have collected at least 200 samples from spots around Blanche Park. At Merrie Christmas Park, workers have mapped out a sampling grid to cover the more than five acres of open fields, picnic area and a playground. Until they have results, officials say they cannot determine what, if any steps need to be taken to address health issues, said Dr. Reynaldo Jean, interim director of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Immunization for the county.
I understand these parents are concerned, he said. Once we get the results and based on the levels, then we move to the next step.
Those results should finally arrive this Friday, Luis Espinoza, a spokesman for the countys environmental office.
Doing testing to determine the extent and type of the contamination is the first step, said Richard Clapp, a Boston University cancer epidemiologist who studied contamination at the Wingate landfill and incinerator, a Superfund site in northwest Fort Lauderdale, and consulted with the state after looking at cancer cases in the area.