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Use of historical mapping to understand sources of soil-lead contamination: Case study of Santa Ana, CA.


This paper investigates the historical sources of soil-lead contamination in Santa Ana, California. Even though dangerous levels of soil-lead have been found in a wide variety of communities across the United States, public health institutions lack clarity on the historical origins of these crises. This study uses geo-spatial data collected through archival research to estimate the impact of two potential sources of lead contamination in the past -- lead-paint and leaded gasoline. It examines, through a combination of statistical and historical methods, the association between lead concentrations in contemporary soil samples and patterns in the evolution of the city's physical features, such as the growth of urbanized areas and the historical flow of traffic. We emphasize the value of historical data collected through archival research for understanding the sources of environmental lead, particularly leaded gasoline, which our study found to be the most likely and most prominent contributor to soil-lead in Santa Ana's environment. This research contributes to environmental-justice advocacy efforts to reframe lead poisoning as a systemic environmental issue and outlines the path forward to community-level remediation strategies.

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