Lead levels not elevated by Picher tornado

Picher _ Preliminary tests by the Environmental Protection Agency show that a tornado that struck a superfund site in northeastern Oklahoma did not raise airborne lead levels enough to create a health risk.

EPA spokeswoman Tressa Tillman says four more monitors will be placed Wednesday to continue the testing, and officials will likely remain in Picher until debris removal is completed.

The tornado, Saturday, was responsible for seven people in the Picher area, which is the center of a former lead and zinc mining area.  Tillman says the EPA monitored the particulate level, since lead can attach to dust in the air, but found it wasn't high enough to raise a health-based concern.

Prolonged exposure to lead can cause damage in the brain and nervous system, particularly in young children. State and federal officials have been trying to buy out residents of the Picher area to encourage them to leave the superfund site.

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