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Study Shows Living Near Hazardous Waste Sites Causes Respiratory Problems
(Beyond Pesticides, May 24, 2005)
The study, “Respiratory disease in relation to patient residence near to hazardous waste sites,” published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology (Vol. 18, No. 3), reveals that persons who live near hazardous waste sites containing persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are hospitalized more frequently for chronic bronchitis and chronic airway obstruction.

This study looks specifically at the risks associated with exposure to POPs through atmospheric routes such as particulates or vapor. Researchers looked at census data and hospitalization records of populations of people living in 257 zip codes in New York, including those on the Hudson River with significantly higher income than the rest of the state. Ultimately, the study concludes that the observations are consistent with the possibility that living near a POPs-contaminated site poses a risk of exposure and increased risk of chronic respiratory disease, probably secondary to suppression of the immune system.

POPs are synthetic, toxic chemicals that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate in food chains and are common contaminants in fish, dairy products and other foods. POPs are carbon containing chemical compounds that, to a varying degree, resist photochemical, biological and chemical degradation. POPs are often halogenated and characterise by low water solubility and high lipid solubility, leading, together with their persistence, to bioacumulation in fatty tissues. They are also semi-volatile, a property which permits these compounds either to vaporise or to be adsorbed on atmospheric particles. They therefore undergo long range transport in air and water from warmer to colder regions of the world. Many Americans may now carry enough POPs in their bodies to cause subtle but serious health effects, including reproductive and developmental problems, cancer, and disruption of the immune system. Some indigenous communities in the Arctic region carry particularly high levels of these contaminants. Many POPs migrate on wind and water currents to the Arctic and bioaccumulate in the marine food chain there, contaminating the traditional foods of indigenous peoples.

The original 12 POPs chemicals include aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, dioxins, eldrin, furans, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, polychlorinated biphenyls, and toxaphene. Earlier this month four other chemicals were added to the list of POPs including lindane, chlordecone and two flame retardants, pentabrominated diphenyl ether (penta-BDE) and hexabromobiphenyl (Hexa-BB). See Beyond Pesticides' May 18, 2005 Daily News for more information.

The POPs treaty, or Stockholm Convention, ratified on May 17, 2004 is an attempt to reduce the impact of these persistent chemicals throughout the world. The U.S. has yet to be among the 98 total ratifying countries. In 2001, President Bush promised to support the treaty, but his administration has sought to undermine it with legislation that would make it harder, rather than easier, for EPA to comply. (See March 11, 2004 Daily News.)

TAKE ACTION: Contact your U.S. Senators, U.S. Representative and EPA Administrator and tell them to enact effective legislation that encompasses the above mentioned concerns that allows the U.S. to ratify and participate fully in the Stockholm and Rotterdam conferences of parties.