Lead, arsenic, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in soil and house dust in the communities surrounding the Sydney, Nova Scotia, tar ponds

Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Jan;112(1):35-41. doi: 10.1289/ehp.6423.


This study evaluated lead, arsenic, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in the residential communities adjacent to the Sydney, Nova Scotia, tar ponds, the area considered Canada's worst contaminated site. The tar pond remediation policy has been limited to the site and some residential properties. We compared background concentrations in 91 soil samples taken 5-20 km from the coke oven site with those in soil samples from the three communities surrounding the tar ponds: Whitney Pier, Ashby, and North End. These surrounding communities were statistically different from background regarding arsenic, lead, and PAHs. Twenty percent of the background soil samples and 95% of the tar pond soil samples were above the Canadian health-risk-based soil guidelines for arsenic (12 ppm), and 5% of the background samples and 80% of the tar pond soil samples were above the Canadian guidelines for lead (140 ppm). Regarding dust lead and arsenic loading, the results provide no evidence that Whitney Pier is significantly different than Ashby and North End. Children in these communities are predicted to have a 1-15% chance of blood lead > 10 microg/dL. The results suggest that lead and arsenic found in the homes originate outside. The lead content of paint in the homes was not evaluated, but consideration of painted wood at the doorway did not confound the results of the study. The results indicate that the residential environment has been adversely affected by PAHs, lead, and arsenic and should be considered for remediation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Arsenic / analysis*
  • Dust
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Nova Scotia
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Steel


  • Dust
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Steel
  • Lead
  • Arsenic