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Toxic Telluride

Heavy metals in paradise are poisoning children

Main Street, Telluride Colorado (looking east)

Main Street, Telluride Colorado (looking east)

Telluride, Colorado

Looks beautiful doesn’t it?

As I hiked in, I saw an old mining building:

former Idarado Mining Company site

former Idarado Mining Company site

Looking more closely, I came across the sign about a reclamation permit (no mention of remediation):


Then I saw these impoundments – no fences and no warning signs – and immediately put the dog on the leash to keep him out of them:


As I hiked up the mountain switchbacks – breathing dust from the ORV crowd – I worried about the dog drinking the water.

As I suspected, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment its toxic:


The major human health concern is possible exposure to heavy metals in the tailings, specifically lead and cadmium. However, human contact with tailings is minimal [Note: I question that claim]. The main impact to the aquatic system is from zinc, cadmium, manganese and changes in pH.


  • The tailings piles contain elevated lead levels (1,300 to 10,000 ppm) and lead concentrations in some soil samples in Telluride are elevated.
  • A 1986 study, financed by Idarado Mining Co., found 7 percent of the children tested had blood lead levels above 10 ug/dL and the average was 6.1 ug/dL.
  • High zinc concentrations adversely affect aquatic life in local rivers and creeks.

I wonder what the no GMO, No Gluten, organic, vegan, locavore, yoga, & jogging crowd and upscale Telluride tourists think about all that?

The Idarado Mining Company got off easy – this was a gold and silver mine – and it looks like they only did a minor children’s blood monitoring program and paid peanuts in Natural Resource Damages for the massive physical and toxic destruction they caused.

I wonder what the wealthy parents living in all those mansions think about this science:?

Current CDC guidelines hold that to protect child health, blood lead levels should not exceed 10 micrograms per deciliter. However, more recent studies reported adverse effects in children at much lower levels.10 Children with blood lead levels greater than 1.5 micrograms per deciliter were more than 8 times as likely to be diagnosed with conduct disorder compared with children with blood lead levels less than 0.7 micrograms per deciliter.11 Prenatal and early life exposure to lead were associated with the potential for increased risks of adolescent neurobehavioral and mental disorders (e.g., conduct disorder,11 attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder,12 schizophrenia13,14), persistent decrements in school performance and tests of cognitive ability,1517 and increased odds of violent behavior and criminal arrests.1821 This research called attention to the fact that the effects of lead exposure extend beyond previously assessed biological effects.

Moreover, the neurocognitive and behavioral effects of lead persist in impacted children, resulting in life-long repercussions. Child development studies documented that early life difficulties in school continue throughout the exposed individual’s life time.22 It was shown that among exposed children, early childhood blood lead levels as low as 2 micrograms per deciliter negatively impacted future school grades.23 Because academic success is a predictor of improved health, social, and economic outcomes later in life,24,25disproportionate exposure to lead experienced by long-term residents of contaminated mining communities might compromise the ability of community members to lead healthy, full lives.


But it sure does look nice:




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