EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WYTV) – After a pair of studies linking higher than normal levels of the element manganese and lower IQ scores in children, some in East Liverpool are wondering what’s being done about it.
“That’s a good question and it’s a question we’ve been asking,” said Alonzo Spencer, who leads Save Our County, an environmental group.
The study was released earlier this month in the Journal of NeuroToxicology, conducted by the University of Cincinnati and the Kent State East Liverpool campus.
It concluded that high manganese levels in East Liverpool have a direct impact on the IQ scores of children living in the area.
According to the study, East Liverpool — the site of a hazardous incinerator and manganese processor — has had air manganese levels exceeding EPA levels for over 10 years.
Save Our County was formed to address environmental health concerns and teamed up with researchers at the University of Cincinnati to look into the impact of exposure.
Children aged 7 to 9 from East Liverpool and surrounding communities were tested in 2011 and again more intensely in 2014.
Local school officials requested the studies over concerns with academic performance in a district where, at one point, the number of students in special education was 50 percent higher than the statewide average.
Hair and blood samples of school children were taken to test for manganese and lead. In some cases, it showed manganese levels were twice as high in East Liverpool students than students in other communities.
The research concluded that higher levels of manganese found in blood and hair samples of the children tested were negatively associated with child IQ scores.
Spencer said results from those studies shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
“As a matter of fact, we had experts that looked over some of the data and they predicted exactly what’s happening.”
Superintendent Randy Taylor said he has not seen the newest studies and he’s not pointing fingers at anyone.
“I’d be very hesitant to draw any kind of a causal relationship between the study and our students.”
While Taylor said his focus is on helping his students the best he can, Spencer said the results show that a broad-based environmental study of the community is needed.
“It’s more than needed now. It’s almost urgent,” Spencer said.
The research article’s abstract references both the Heritage-Thermal Medical Waste Incinerator and SH Bell, a metals processing plant. Both are located in town.
Earlier this year, executives with SH Bell agreed to reduce and monitor its manganese output. Although they have had issues with the EPA in the past, officials with Heritage-Thermal say their own manganese levels are negligible and federal documents show no problem.