MDH: Elevated lead levels found in 4 kids of employees at Anoka ammunition plant

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The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says workers at the Federal Ammunition plant in Anoka should have their kids tested for lead exposure after health officials found children with elevated blood levels whose parents work at the plant.

According to MDH, four children were found to have elevated lead levels in their blood because of lead dust that was brought home by accident on employees’ clothing and personal items.

MDH officials are concerned that other children of workers at the plant could also have been exposed to what they call “take-home lead dust” and say those kids should be tested.

“Young children, they explore, they’re often low to the ground, and they’re probably picking up that lead dust and they’re getting it into their mouths,” said Dan Huff, MDH assistant commissioner for health protection.

The health department says routine screenings for blood lead are recommended for children ages 1 and 2. All four children identified had elevated blood lead levels, indicating lead exposure.

Experts urge testing as soon as possible because even a minuscule amount can have a lasting impact.

“Most commonly we see lead exposure in kids from paint in their own houses, and it can take a teaspoon of lead spread out through a whole house to affect a child,” said Dr. Stephanie Yendell, supervisor of MDH’s lead surveillance program.  

Yendell said lead exposure can affect children’s development and behavior and can cause and physiological problems such as hypertension, headaches and muscle aches.

Health officials say the first case was identified in November 2021 and the next three cases were found in late 2022 and early 2023. The health department notes that in each case, health investigators did not find lead paint or the other typical sources of lead exposure, rather, samples identified lead in locations such as vehicle floors, the bottoms of shoes parents would wear to work, and the floor surface where they would leave those shoes.

According to MDH, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry issued a citation in late 2021 to the ammunition plant for violations of OSHA lead standards. Those citations resulted in the requirement that plant managers implement improvements that would reduce the amount of lead dust workers could potentially take home. Since then, the additional three children with elevated lead in blood levels were identified, MDH notes.

Vista Outdoor, the parent company of Federal Ammunition, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

State health officials say they don’t believe neighbors living near the plant are affected by lead contamination.

MDH says the St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health and Anoka County Public Health assisted in identifying the four cases and are working with the families of the children impacted.

Free blood lead testing will be available as well at:

More information can be found on the Minnesota Department of Health’s website.