The Negative Impacts of Proximity to a Superfund Site
How are Superfund sites damaging to human health?
Continued exposure to the hazardous substances released from Superfund sites into the air, groundwater, and surface water can be incredibly detrimental to human health in communities within and surrounding the site.
Research has shown higher levels of cancer, birth defects, developmental disabilities, and other serious health issues in communities near Superfund sites.
Superfund sites are particularly dangerous for children, prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals can damage children’s health and even impact their performance in school.
Children have a much higher rate of exposure to environmental toxicants than adults, as they have higher intakes of water, food, and air than adults in relation to body weight; additionally, this higher rate of exposure is exacerbated by common behaviors of children, such as hand-to-mouth behavior, and playing close to the ground when outside.
Because of this higher rate of toxicant exposure, as well as their lessened ability to metabolize and excrete toxicants, children living or going to school on or near Superfund sites are particularly vulnerable to health issues.
In addition to increased levels of childhood cancer and birth defects, exposure to hazardous substances released from Superfund sites has been correlated with higher rates of suspension from school and repeating grade levels, lower standardized test scores, and decreased cognitive functioning.
Living near a Superfund site is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and the elderly.
Research has shown that pregnant women living near a Superfund site that has not been cleaned up have a 20 to 25% higher risk of having a child with congenital birth defects than those that live near a site that has been cleaned up.
The elderly are at a higher risk of developing health problems related to the release of toxicants from Superfund sites, as they generally have higher rates of comorbid conditions and decreased immune system activity.
Proximity to a Superfund site can lead to economic decline in a community.
Proximity to a Superfund site can have a strong negative impact on property values, as the negative connotation associated with the toxicity of Superfund sites can keep people from wanting to buy housing on or near them. Lower housing prices are often correlated with lower spending trends, and ultimately lower economic growth. Many communities that are affected by Superfund sites are already low-income, therefore the effects of Superfund on the socioeconomic status of affected communities can worsen pre-existing economic issues.
The EPA’s Superfund Redevelopment Initiative works to redevelop and reuse formerly contaminated Superfund sites. The reclamation of this land has been shown to be beneficial to local economies, with increases in the number of on-site jobs, employment income from on-site jobs, property values, property tax revenue, and the number of businesses. All of these factors can help to revitalize the economies of communities affected by Superfund sites.
Put the Super back into Superfund
Want to see polluters pay for their messes rather than taxpayers? Contact your representatives and tell them to support Senator Booker’s bill: Superfund Polluter Pays Restoration Act of 2017 (S.2198).
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