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Study finds high levels of metals in Butte newborns

Posted at 11:32 AM, Dec 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-09 13:36:08-05

BUTTE — A 2018 study conducted by a Montana Tech chemistry professor measuring metal concentration in Butte newborn's stool samples started as a small experiment, but it ended with a big result.

“I expected to see a higher metal concentration in Butte, but I didn’t expect it to be this large. So, we were very surprised,” said Dr. Katie Hailer, co-author of the study.

Dr. Hailer took 15 samples from healthy Butte babies and compared them with samples taken from 17 newborns in South Carolina.

Higher levels of copper, zinc and manganese were found in the Butte babies.

“And so more samples should be collected. A much larger study should be conducted,” said Dr. Hailer.

Hailer is seeking a grant for a proposed five-year study that will sample at least 200 Butte babies and their mothers to determine if there is a problem with elevated levels in Butte.

“It takes money. Unfortunately, this type of work is very expensive,” said Dr. Hailer.

People can avoid metal contamination by washing hands regularly and taking off shoes before going into the house.

But until more research is done on these elevated levels of exposure, we still don’t know much.

Dr. Hailer notes there’s no reason to panic, "Butte produces normal healthy babies every day, so I don’t want the people in Butte to panic."