Study: Ben Hill Co. baseball field lead levels safe, homes may still have issues

Study: Ben Hill Co. baseball field lead levels safe, homes may still have issues
The study was done this July (Source: WALB)
The soil was determined to be safe (Source: WALB)
The soil was determined to be safe (Source: WALB)

BEN HILL CO., GA (WALB) - A Georgia Department of Public Health study found that a Ben Hill County baseball field did not contain dangerous amounts of lead.

The Department of Public Health wrote that it was safe to play on the fields, but kids in the county did have higher amounts of lead in their blood for other reasons.

Public health officials investigate

Cars whip past baseball fields in Fitzgerald.

It's hard to tell now, but just across the road and beyond barbed-wire fences once stood Delphi Energy and Engine Management, a company that produced lead emissions.

It's all land that a former Ben Hill County Commissioner requested be studied by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

"Brains are developing quickly, lead poisoning is a neurological condition that affects IQ," said the South District Environmental Health Director Chris Calhoun. "It causes behavioral problems."

To make sure kids in town were safe from those issues, the Georgia Department of Public Health, based out of Atlanta, did a study on the park. The soil was tested and the ways lead could have floated to the baseball diamonds were investigated.

The report states lead levels in the soil were safe and that fences around the former plant site most likely kept people out of that area.

Public health workers explain the Delphi site, where approximately 1,000 tons of lead-contaminated soil was removed starting in 2002, was most likely surrounded by enough trees and other industry to keep the field from being contaminated by emissions.

Lead levels low in soil, higher than normal in blood

While the study found that lead levels in the soil were low, it also pointed out that children in Ben Hill County had more of the harmful chemical in their blood than others in the state.

Results, testing blood from kids between the years of 1998 and 2015, showed higher blood lead levels than children in the state of Georgia as a whole.

Lead paint in some older homes is something health workers are citing as the cause. Calhoun, although not a member of the state team conducting the study, said he knows the town has homes with lead paint.

"Fitzgerald has a lot older homes," Calhoun said. "I do believe there are county statistics on our state website and Ben Hill County does have a higher prevalence than other counties in the area."

Calhoun said it's important to damp-mop homes that contain lead paint and make sure your children are safe.

"Wash your children's hands as much as possible because children six months to six years old are most at risk," Calhoun said. "That's because they have a lot of hand to mouth contact and they get the lead dust that way."

Something Calhoun said is dangerous but preventable.

Calhoun added that parents can bring their children to a physician or local health department for a lead poison screening.

Copyright 2017 WALB. All rights reserved.

Keep up with WALB on the go! 
Follow us on social  
   and download our apps!