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>> In Viburnum Missouri, a small town in the mining district known as the Lead Belt. The toxic metal isn't just something you see in the news. It's a way of life. And for some locals poisoning is a cost of living.>> Lead is something that we use in the medical field, in your cars.
There's a lot of great things for lead. And we gotta have it and we gotta go underground and get it. And this may be the price that you pay. But if you follow the rules that the company has provided. You're gonna be all right and live a happy, healthy life.
>> Antonin Bohack, who works for the Doe Run Mining Company, said he was nearly taken off the job a few years ago after he was poisoned himself. With a lead blood level four times higher than what federal officials consider healthy for adults.>> It's dangerous, but it has provided very well for my family.
>> Bohack's two year-old son Sawyer is also at risk for poisoning. As lead contamination in Viburnum is pervasive. Says Reuters reporter Michael Pell.>> The census track with the highest percentage of tested children with elevated blood lead levels includes Viburnum. Viburnum has old housing stock. But it also is home to Doe Run Mining Company.
>> Doe Run is the largest lead producer in North America and all of its mines are in Viburnum. Lead poisoning is so common here residents here even have a colloquial term for it, getting leaded. Lance Mayfield who used to work for the mining company transported lead on the rail line.
Where he says there were many accidents and spills.>> Kids play on the rail line. So there's an exposure there that I'm not sure that has been dealt with. And that could lead to some of the issues that the county health department may be seeing. When it comes to the lead exposure of children.
Garrett Harris lives six miles from a Doe Run plant that recycles lead acid batteries and other lead-bearing materials.>> It's a pretty strong sulfur type smell, not pleasant.>> Doe Run has been cited by the EPA multiple times for lead contamination. It and other mining firms are currently under a federal orders to clean up and test hundreds of properties in the region.
Including playgrounds, daycare yards, and other places where small children gather.>> Your choices around here are limited. This is the only industry we have. It's good paying jobs. They've supported the community. It's really the reason the community is here. But you've got to make that decision on, is it worth my health versus my livelihood?