BEVERLY HILLS—Possible dangerous levels of arsenic have been discovered in the soil of the lacrosse field at Beverly Hills High School.
The district told CBS News that the arsenic was found where construction was set to commence as part of the school’s $150 million dollar renovation.
State test results came back above the “acceptable limit” and in effect, the lacrosse facility has been closed indefinitely until the problem is eradicated, says the district.
Further tests have been taken in other areas of the BHHS campus and results are expected to be completed by Tuesday, August 11.
Arsenic is a natural occurring element that is a component of the Earth’s crust and can be found in water, soil, rock and air.
According to the Environmental Health Criteria 224: Arsenic and Arsenic Compounds report, arsenic concentrations are increased, “in certain areas as a result of weathering and anthropogenic activities including metal mining and smelting, fossil fuel combustion and pesticide use.” Arsenic occurs in two forms: inorganic and organic.
In a Public Health Statement for Arsenic, the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) states that inorganic arsenic, which is the most common, is formed when arsenic combines with oxygen, chlorine and sulfur. Organic arsenic, an extremely toxic form of the element, is created when arsenic combines with either carbon or hydrogen.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that, “the greatest threat to public health from arsenic originates from contaminated groundwater. Inorganic arsenic is naturally present at high levels in the groundwater of a number of countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, India, Mexico, and the United States of America.”
Cancer and skin lesions can result from extended exposure to arsenic through contaminated drinking water and food. “It has also been associated with developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes,” says the WHO.
Beverly Hills High School sits on the grounds of what used to be an oil field. Nineteen oil wells owned by Venoco, Inc form a drilling island. BHHS benefits by gaining $300,000 a year in royalties.
In 2003 and 2004 famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich and Ed Masry filed three class-action lawsuits against BHHS arguing that the wells beneath the school has formed an on-campus “cancer cluster” for students. Brockovitch and Masry represented 25,400 and 300 students who attended BHHS.
In 2006, the first 12 lawsuits were dismissed after failing to present enough evidence that benzene, the contaminant, was the cause of disease due to the extremely low level of concentrations found.
In 2007, the plaintiffs agreed to reimburse the Beverly Hills school district and the city of Los Angeles $450,000 for lawsuit expenses.
In regards to the present day issue, Brian Goldberg, the president of the Beverly Hills Unified School District, told CBS News that, “he understands there are concerns but assures proper action is being taken.”
Classes at Beverly Hills High School begin on Tuesday, August 11.