Health Study at Huge Toxic Spill

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After forty years, the NYS Department of Health is finally launching a health study of people who lived in an area affected by a huge toxic chemical spill south of Rochester, NY. About 35,000 gallons of trichloroethene, or TCE, was released during a 1970 train derailment in Le Roy, Genesee County, creating a 4 ½-square-mile plume of contaminated groundwater.

People in several dozen homes drank and bathed in private well water containing TCE for two decades until officials finally provided public water. Others inhaled indoor air containing trace amounts of the solvent until recent action to alleviate that problem.

Two state health surveys done years ago found nothing out of the ordinary. But public attention has re-focused on the derailment spill site in recent months, and some residents have asserted that people who lived above the plume did suffer a higher-than-normal rate of cancer. The study will examine the Le Roy-area site and eight other lightly populated locations around the state where TCE have been found. Data for the nine sites will aggregated, so the sample size being analyzed is larger and thus more statistically meaningful.

The other locations are in Cayuga, Cattaraugus, Dutchess, Greene, Rensselaer, Ulster and Washington counties. The study will look at cancer incidence and also at birth weight, birth defects and pre-term births among people living at those sites as far back as the early 1980s. (Source, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 9/8/12)

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