PORTLAND, Ore. – The air around Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland continues to have toxic levels of heavy metals, seven months after air problems were first reported near the glass company.
The Oregon Health Authority announced Friday that selenium concentrations at the Children’s Creative Learning Center, a nearby daycare, were above what health officials say is safe to breathe.
The concentrations of selenium were found at 887 nanograms per cubic meter on Sept. 6. That’s more than 150 nanograms above the state’s 24-hour screening level, which is a high threshold compared to what’s safe to breathe long term.
At low levels, selenium can have health benefits. But too much selenium can impact thyroid hormones if someone breathes more than 300 micrograms per cubic meter on a regular basis, according to the National Institute of Health. At higher levels, it can cause stomach problems, nail and hair loss, and skin problems.
OHA directed Bullseye Glass to reduce emissions of selenium and asked the glass-making company to only use selenium in furnaces with a baghouse filter.
Bullseye recently installed a baghouse, and the state also wondered why the new baghouse didn’t keep selenium levels from spiking.
"Bullseye's use of less than five pounds of selenium per day should be very effective in preventing the kinds of jumps in readings that we saw on Sept. 6, even if the metal is used in a furnace without a baghouse," said Brian Boling, DEQ laboratory program manager. "We also need to make sure Bullseye's new filtration system is working properly, which will further reduce the chances of spikes."
In February, moss studies found elevated levels of toxic metals around the glass factory, as well as another glass company in North Portland. Bullseye has continued to have air quality issues and in May, Governor Kate Brown ordered a temporary cease and desist after high lead levels were found at the nearby daycare.
When Bullseye first found out about the air quality issues, the company said the news hit “like a ton of bricks.” The company has not released a statement about the selenium concentrations.