Pesticide, heavy metal exposure to be studied

Local participants are expected to be tested in research by the state Department of Health.

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Some Walla Walla families are waiting for the knock on the door.

That signals participation in a Washington state Department of Health voluntary study that looks at exposures to pesticides and heavy metals in state residents.

Testing will be done through urine and drinking water samples, as well as a list of questions.

The agency will use random sampling to select participants, said Harvey Crowder, administrator for Walla Walla County Public Health Department.

Those picked chosen will receive letters this week. And being chosen definitely does not mean any problems are suspected, he emphasized.

The sampling is part of a five-year project designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to look at this aspect of health in America's adults.

While it may seem a natural to suspect a higher level of pesticide exposure in the Walla Walla Valley, safety standards have changed "so much in the last 20 years, I don't know if that will be true anymore," Crowder said.

State health officials also want to check on blood levels of heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium. Any community in the state getting a "yes" in that box will want to step back and ask "what do we need to know about that," he added.

While the personal survey information will kept confidential, anyone testing high will be notified to check in with a primary care physician and everyone will hear about their own test results.

Hopefully that will encourage people to want to participate and not find being asked to pee in a vessel so unusual, said Denise Laflamme, field project supervisor. "We hope people can see beyond that. The CDC does this nationally and we'll be comparing our test results with national levels."

Once that information is in, health officials will know if Washington is higher or lower than national averages, she said. "This is informational only, to get a picture of exposures in Washington state."

For more information call 877-494-3137.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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