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Iowa county suspends its use of slag for gravel roads

January 16, 2019

MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — An eastern Iowa county has stopped using slag as the gravel on its roads, at least temporarily, because a state toxicologist reported that the steel manufacturing byproduct could be harmful, especially to children.

Muscatine County supervisors voted Monday to suspend the use of slag while they wait for further testing on it, The Muscatine Journal reported.

The move comes after Iowa Public Health Department toxicologist Stuart Schmitz issued a report that said slag contains metals at levels that can be harmful.

Children exposed to high levels of manganese, which is in slag, could develop learning disabilities and adverse behavioral changes, according to a U.S. Department of Health report.

Slag dust is also dangerous for adults who are exposed to high concentrations of the material, though adults would have to work “an entire workday, most days of the year,” to be harmed, Schmitz’s report said.

The material hasn’t been used on roads since June, said County Supervisor Nathan Mather.

“Simply put, we suspended the use of slag out of an abundance of caution while more information is gathered,” Mather said.

Glenn Hundertmark is the North American environmental manager at Harsco, the industrial company that provides the county with slag. He said there aren’t health or environmental risks tied with the material.

“We believe that any claims otherwise are completely meritless and based on mischaracterized, misinterpreted data,” Hundertmark said.

Hundertmark requested time to provide additional information. He said samples of the slag were taken recently with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and results should be available soon.

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Information from: Muscatine Journal, http://www.muscatinejournal.com

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