Along with following up on the long-delayed permitting of the McConway and Torley steel foundry in Lawrenceville, GASP has also been tracking manganese levels recorded at the facility’s fenceline and reported on in the Lawrenceville Toxics Metals Study (viewable here under “Other Air Quality Studies”). Our most recent Making the Connection event, on October 25, 2018, explored manganese exposure and children’s IQ and featured regional experts and their latest research. Their presentations from that evening are posted below.
But first some background. Manganese is a naturally-occurring metal found in many types of rocks and soil. Certain foods also contain manganese. And while some ingested manganese is necessary for good health, inhaled manganese is a different story. Manganese becomes airborne from industries using or manufacturing products containing manganese (such as the McConway and Torley foundry), mining activities, and vehicle exhaust.
The most common health problems in people exposed to manganese involve the nervous system. Health effects include behavioral changes and other nervous system effects, such as slow and clumsy movements. This group of symptoms is called “manganism.” Other effects such as slowed hand movements have been observed in people exposed to lower concentrations. Manganese can also cross the blood-brain barrier and the placenta during pregnancy, allowing it to reach a developing fetus.
Most manganese studies have focused on occupational exposure, so we were quite interested when we learned Dr. Erin Haynes, a Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati, was examining the impact of airborne manganese on child neurodevelopment. Dr. Haynes has been conducting research in partnership with communities concerned about their potential exposure to manganese for over a decade. See Dr. Haynes’s presentation:
We were also joined by Nancy Beluk. Nancy has been working in the field of MRI for 34 years and is currently focused on MRI research, working at the University of Pittsburgh and the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh as a Research Coordinator in the Pediatric Imaging Research Center. She manages several studies that hope to derive a better understanding between brain dysplasia in children and the potentially adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes that may occur as a result. See Ms. Beluk’s presentation:
Manganese is emitted by some industries located in Allegheny County. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection eFACTS, the top emitters of manganese in Allegheny County in 2016 were:
U.S. Steel/Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock
ATI Flat Rolled Products in Brackenridge
Universal Stainless and Alloy Products in Bridgeville
NRG Midwest LP in Cheswick
McConway and Torley in Lawrenceville
To learn more about these facilities, the status of their air quality permits, and GASP’s work to watchdog this issue, please watch GASP Staff Attorney Ned Mulcahy’s presentation:
Finally, you can view the informative Question and Answer Session:
Please contact us if you’d like more information or to get involved in this issue, or check back to or web site regularly as we’ll be reporting on this and other air quality issues.