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---January 6, 1994---
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Several studies of industrial dumps and contaminated water supplies during the last decade have reported adverse health effects among exposed human populations. [1] The principal health findings include:

** Significantly reduced stature (height) for a given age among children who lived near Love Canal, the chemical waste dump in Niagara Falls, N.Y., compared to a control group of children living further from the dump. [2]

** A higher prevalence of birth defects and liver disease among persons living near a thorium waste disposal site in Wayne, New Jersey, compared to persons living further away from the site. [3] (Thorium is a naturally-occurring radioactive element processed on this site by a private firm under contract to the old Atomic Energy Commission, now called the Department of Energy.)

** Low birth weight and birth defects in California children born in census tracts having waste disposal sites. [4]

** Enlargement of the liver (hepatomegaly) and abnormal liver function tests reported in residents exposed to solvents from a toxic waste dump in Hardemann County, Tenn. [5]

** Dermatitis, respiratory irritation, neurologic symptoms and pancreatic cancer at 7 waste disposal sites. [6]

** Significantly elevated rates of illness, including chronic kidney disease, stroke, hypertension [high blood pressure], heart disease, anemia, and skin cancer in a population exposed to toxic metals (cadmium and lead) from mine wastes in Galena, Kansas. [7]

** Leukemia (cancer of the blood-forming cells) among a group of children drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents in Woburn, Mass. In addition, a study of 4936 pregnancies and 5018 residents of Woburn aged 18 or younger revealed significant positive associations between intake of contaminated water and birth defects of the central nervous system, eye, ear, and face (e.g., cleft palate), as well as abnormalities of the chromosomes. [8]

** In Lowell, Mass., a group of 1049 people living 1200 feet from a large chemical waste dump was higher in self-reported complaints of wheezing, shortness of breath, cough, and persistent colds; irregular heart beat; constant fatigue and bowel dysfunction, compared to people living 2 and 3 times as far from the dump. [9] This study examined the possibility of recall bias (people selectively remembering health problems, or chemical exposures) and concluded that recall bias did not explain the findings.

** In Hamilton, Ontario, a study of people who lived and/or worked near an industrial dump revealed significantly elevated rates of the following conditions: bronchitis; difficulty breathing; cough; skin rash; arthritis; heart problems (angina [chest pain], and heart attacks); muscle weakness in arms and legs; tremors, cramps, and spasms; headaches; dizziness; lethargy; balance problems; and mood symptoms (anxiety, depression, insomnia, irritability, and restlessness) compared to populations living further from the site. [10] Recall bias was examined and rejected as the source of these problems.

** A survey of 2039 persons in 606 households living near the Stringfellow Acid Pits in Riverside County, California revealed significantly elevated rates for the following conditions: ear infections; bronchitis; asthma; angina [chest pain]; skin rashes; blurred vision; pain in the ears; daily cough for more than a month; nausea; frequent diarrhea; unsteady gait; and frequent urination. [11] Recall bias was examined and rejected as the cause of these problems.

** In Tucson, Arizona, a study of 707 children born with heart defects revealed that 35% of them were born to parents living in a part of the city where the water supply was contaminated with industrial solvents (trichloroethylene [TCE], and dichloroethylene). The rate of birth defects of the heart was three times as high among people drinking the contaminated water, compared to people in Tucson not drinking contaminated water. [12]

** A study of 296 women experiencing a spontaneous abortion during the first 27 weeks of pregnancy, compared to 1391 women having live births, revealed an association between spontaneous abortion and drinking water contaminants (detectable levels of mercury, or high levels of arsenic, potassium and silica). [13]

** Residents of Bynum, North Carolina, drinking raw river water contaminated by industrial and agricultural chemicals, have developed cancers 2.4 to 2.6 times more often than expected. [14]

To summarize: Epidemiological studies cannot prove a cause and effect relationship. Nevertheless, available information indicates that hazardous waste dumps can harm, and have harmed, humans living nearby. Likewise, contaminated water supplies have harmed people.

The problem of waste dumps is continuing to grow. As the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences said in 1991, "A limited number of epidemiologic studies indicate that increased rates of birth defects, spontaneous abortion, neurologic impairment, and cancer have occurred in some residential populations exposed to hazardous wastes. We are concerned that other populations at risk might not have been adequately identified." And the Council said, "Millions of tons of hazardous materials are slowly migrating into groundwater in areas where they could pose problems in the future, even though current risks could be negligible." [15]

There is a move afoot now in Washington, and in the mass media, to divert attention away from the problem of toxic wastes. The goal seems to be to cut funding for the federal Superfund program of toxic waste cleanup. It seems clear that such a move, if successful, will result in increased health costs for the American people.
                                                                         --Peter Montague, Ph.D.
[1] For a review of several studies, see Arthur C. Upton, Theodore Kneip and Paolo Toniolo, "Public Health Aspects of Toxic Chemical Disposal Sites," ANNUAL REVIEW OF PUBLIC HEALTH Vol. 10 (1989), pgs. 1-25.

[2] Beverly Paigen, Lynn R. Goldman, Mary M. Magnant, Joseph H. Highland, and A.T. Steegman, Jr., "Growth of Children Living Near the Hazardous Waste Site, Love Canal," HUMAN BIOLOGY Vol. 59 (June 1987), pgs. 489-508. See also, Lynn R. Goldman and others, "Low Birth Weight, Prematurity and Birth Defects in Children Living Near the Hazardous Waste Site, Love Canal," HAZARDOUS WASTE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS, Vol. 2 (1985), pgs. 209-223; see also Beverly Paigen and others, "Prevalence of Health Problems in Children Living Near Love Canal," HAZARDOUS WASTE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS, Vol. 2 (1985), pgs. 23-43. And see: Nicholas J. Vianna and Adele K. Polan, "Incidence of Low Birth Weight Among Love Canal Residents," SCIENCE Vol. 226 No. 4679 (December 7, 1984), pgs. 1217-1219.

[3] G. Reza Najem and Lisa K. Voyce, "Health Effects of a Thorium Waste Disposal Site," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH Vol. 80 (April 1990), pgs. 478-480.

[4] Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CALIFORNIA: BIRTH DEFECTS STUDY (Atlanta, Ga.: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 1990). See also: Gary M. Shaw and others, "Congenital Malformations and Birthweight in Areas with Potential Environmental Contamination," ARCHIVES OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH Vol. 47 (March/April 1992), pgs. 147-154, which showed increased risk of malformations of the heart and circulatory system (though not a risk of low birthweight) among children born to California mothers residing in census tracts having waste disposal sites.

[5] Channing R. Meyer, "Liver Dysfunction in Residents Exposed to Leachate from a Toxic Waste Dump," ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PERSPECTIVES Vol. 48 (1983), pgs. 9-13.

[6] Barry L. Johnson, "Testimony by Barry L. Johnson, Ph.D., Assistant Surgeon General, Assistant Administrator, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry [ATSDR], Before the Subcommittee on Superfund, Recycling, and Solid Waste Management, United States Senate, May 6, 1993," pg. 10, citing various studies by ATSDR.

[7] John S. Neuberger and others, "Health Problems in Galena, Kansas: A Heavy Metal Mining Superfund Site," THE SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT Vol. 94 (1990), pgs. 261-272.

[8] J. Cutler and others, "Childhood Leukemia in Woburn, Massachusetts," PUBLIC HEALTH REPORTS Vol. 101 (1988), pgs. 201-205. See also V.S. Byers, "Association between clinical symptoms and lymphocyte abnormalities in a population with chronic domestic exposure to industrial solvent contaminated domestic water supply and a high incidence of leukaemia." CANCER IMMUNOLOGY AND IMMUNOTHERAPY, Vol. 27 (1988), pgs. 77-81; and: S. W. Lagakos and others, "An Analysis of Contaminated Well Water and Health Effects in Woburn, Massachusetts," JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN STATISTICAL ASSOCIATION Vol. 81 (1986), pgs. 583-196. Because none of the chemicals in Woburn water were previously known to cause leukemia, the leukemia association was questioned; see B. MacMahon, "Comment on the Article, 'An Analysis of Contaminated Well Water and Health Effects in Woburn, Massachusetts,'" JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN STATISTICAL ASSOCIATION Vol. 81 (1986), pgs. 597-599.

[9] David Ozonoff and others, "Health Problems Reported by Residents of a Neighborhood Contaminated by a Hazardous Waste Facility," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF INDUSTRIAL MEDICINE, Vol. 11 (1987), pgs. 581-597.

[10] Clyde Hertzman and others, "Upper Ottawa Street Landfill Site Health Study," ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PERSPECTIVES Vol. 75 (1987), pgs. 173-195.

[11] Dean B. Baker and others, "A Health Study of Two Communites [sic] Near the Stringfellow Waste Disposal Site," ARCHIVES OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH Vol. 43 (Sept./Oct., 1988), pgs. 325-334.

[12] Stanley J. Goldberg and others, "An Association of Human Congenital Cardiac Malformations and Drinking Water Contaminants," JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF CARDIOLOGY Vol. 16, No. 1 (July, 1990), pgs. 155-164. See also: Cleo P. Loeber Mary J. C. Hendrix, Steven Diez De Pinos, and Stanley J. Goldberg, "Trichloroethylene: A Cardiac Teratogen in Developing Chick Embryos," PEDIATRIC RESEARCH Vol. 24 (1988): pgs 740-744. And: Brenda V. Dawson, Paula D. Johnson, Stanley J. Goldberg, and Judith B. Ulreich, "Cardiac Teratogenesis of Trichloroethylene and Dichloroethylene in a Mammalian Model," JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF CARDIOLOGY Vol. 16 (November 1, 1990), pgs. 1304-1309.

[13] Ann Aschengrau and others, "Quality of Community Drinking Water and the Occurrence of Spontaneous Abortion," ARCHIVES OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH Vol. 44 (September/October 1989), pgs. 283-290.

[14] J. Scott Osborne III, Carl M. Shy, and Berton H. Kaplan, "Epidemiologic Analysis of a Reported Cancer Cluster in a Small Rural Population," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF EPIDEMIOLOGY Vol. 132, No.[1] (July 1990), pgs. S87-S95.

[15] Anthony B. Miller and others, ENVIRONMENTAL EPIDEMIOLOGY, VOLUME 1: PUBLIC HEALTH AND HAZARDOUS WASTES (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1991), pgs. 10, 257.

Descriptor terms: hazardous waste disposal; landfilling; morbidity; mortality; studies; children; growth; love canal; niagara falls; ny; birth defects; liver disease; thorium; wayne; nj; aec; doe; low birth weight; ca; liver disease; hepatomegaly; solvents; hardemann county; tn; dermatitis; neurologic disease; pancreatic cancer; kidney disease; stroke; hypertension; high blood pressure; heart disease; circulatory disease; anemia; skin cancer; cadmium; lead; galena; ks; leukemia; woburn; ma; eye; ear; cns; central nervous system; cleft palate; chromosomes; lowell; respiratory disease; colds; fatigue; cough; bowel disorders; recall bias; hamilton; ontario; cn; bronchitis; skin rash; arthritis; angina; heart attack; tremors; cramps; spasms; headache; dizziness; lethargy; anxiety; depression; incomnia; irritability; restlessness; stringfellow acid pits; asthma; nausea; diarrhea; urination; tucson; az; heart defects; trichloroethylene; dichloroethylene; tce; spontaneous abortion; reproduction; mercury; arsenic; potassium; epidemiology; nrs; nas;

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