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New report raises concerns over use of slag on rural Iowa roads

Muscatine County has plans to bring up discontinuing the use of slag at their next supervisor meeting.

Eye-opening results from a new report reveal some roads in Eastern Iowa could be harmful.

That's because of a product used to protect rural roads called slag.

Slag is a byproduct of steel manufacturing in which recycled metals are refined and used as a cheaper replacement to gravel.

The toxicology report, analyzed by the Iowa Department of Public Health, said slag used in Muscatine County could have harmful levels of Maganese, a metal which could be accidentally ingested by children and adults working on the roads.

"My main concern is if that indeed is the levels that are out there, if children were playing in those areas, it may be of an adverse impact," said Stuart Schmitz, State Toxicologist for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Maganese is five times higher than what is considered safe for children, who could be exposed to the material's dust.

"The impacts that you would most likely see would be confusion, a lack of coordination," said Schmitz.

Muscatine County Engineer Keith White said the numbers are only from one sampling and may not be representative of all the material they use.

"All the numbers in the past said there's nothing there that's in an unsafe quantity," said White.

CBS2 news reached out to counties in the corridor to see where slag is used. Only Cedar County confirmed using it.

'We actually truck it out of Muscatine County. They do all the crushing and things of that nature," said Rob Fangmann, Senior County Engineer for Cedar County.

Fangmann said this is not a safety concern for them.

"We're not putting it down in large volumes by any means," he said.

Roads in Cedar County do have slag on them but that is only because it's mixed in with salt and sand to combat icy roads in the winter. The county engineer said that helps to keep cars from sliding on the road because the dense material gives traction to the cars.

"We actually get a lot of request for it," said Fangmann.

Fangmann said it would be hard to detect any harmful levels in their mix.

Muscatine County may now have to consider not using slag altogether.

"I would make sure that parents are vigilant about where their kids play," said Schmitz.

Toxicology experts said the Department of Natural Resources is now testing samples of the slag from a Muscatine County steel plant to see if it is harmful.

The county has plans to bring up discontinuing the use of slag at their next supervisor meeting.

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