The presence of hazardous chemicals such as lead (Pb) or other heavy metals in the environment poses significant threats to human health. Industrial activities can increase the concentrations of these toxic metals in the soil, water and air where people live, work and play. When exposed to lead, residents face a higher risk of neurological damage, anemia or developmental delays. Urban soil lead levels, for example, are usually higher than the natural background lead levels due to the historical usage of lead paint, leaded gasoline and proximity to industrial activities. We explored a case in southeastern Los Angeles County, where lead contamination in the soil has been a particular concern near a lead-acid battery smelter. In this case study, we investigated soil lead levels across the neighborhoods surrounding the smelter as a mean to support this clean-up decision making. We used a hot spot analysis to identify clusters of high soil lead levels at a neighborhood scale. This case study can be used to teach higher-division undergraduate and graduate students to incorporate spatial thinking and exploratory spatial analysis approaches into the decision-making process for remediation of environmental contamination. Through this case study, the students will develop the knowledge about soil lead contamination and associated health risks, learn how exploratory spatial data analysis can assist examining the distribution of soil lead contamination and discuss potential strategies to improve the environmental remediation process in the urban environment.

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