jueves, 28 de enero de 2016

Trace of cancer reaches the water people of New York

In 2013, the father of Michael Hickey died of a painful kidney cancer at age 68. Then, Hickey became her mission to discover why so many sick people in their locality, Hoosic River.

Two years later, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned Hoosick Falls residents not to drink water from municipal wells and a plastics plant has agreed to provide bottled water and pay two million dollars for a new filtering system in the water treatment plant of the town.

Hickey campaign started by his suspicions about pollution in this industrial town in upstate New York, near Vermont. His father had worked for 35 years at a plant that manufactures plastic high performance similar to Teflon, so Hickey did an internet search on the relationship between cancer and Teflon.

What he found was PFOA.

The perfluoroocatnoico acid, a substance that repels water and oil, used since the 1940s in products like kitchen material nonstick, stain resistant and microwave popcorn bags carpets. The manufacturers agreed to remove such progressive end of 2015, shortly after it reached an agreement with DuPont $ 16.5 million with the EPA because the company had not been informed of the possible health risks associated with PFOA.

A scientific committee that made health studies as part of the settlement of a class action lawsuit against DuPont in West Virginia concluded that there was "probable ties" between exposure to PFOA and kidney cancer, testicular and thyroid, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis and hypertension produced during pregnancy.

Hoosick Falls, no one had ever documented scientific manner that the village has a rare cancer rate, but Hickey and a local doctor knew of specific cases enough to think that the issue should be addressed.

"It has always been talked about in the village that much cancer," Hickey said. "When my father, who neither drank nor smoked, was diagnosed with kidney cancer, that made it more personal."

Dr. Marcus Martinez, the family doctor for many of the 3,500 villagers added that indeed seemed to have a higher rate of cancer in the area, especially aggressive forms and unusual. Martinez, 44, himself is in remission from aggressive prostate cancer.

When the two proposed analyzing the water of the people, part-time Mayor David Borge initially rejected the recommendations, citing the state. The state of New York classifies PFOA as a "non-specific organic contaminant" and does not require testing done.

The EPA has a non-binding recommendation that the concentration of this substance does not exceed 400 parts per trillion, equivalent to about 4 teaspoons in enough water to fill a row of 10 miles of rail tankers.

Hickey used her own money in the summer of 2014 to analyze the water from your kitchen faucet and other sources. The results showed a PFOA concentration of 540 parts per trillion Hickey's house, above EPA recommendations. The municipal authorities then analyzed the local supply and found similar levels.

The company Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, part of a global conglomerate based in Paris, in 1999 became the fifth owner of a plastics factory in Hoosick Falls. In the summer of 2015 was recorded analysis and levels of PFOA than 18,000 parts per trillion in groundwater under the plant, 500 yards (meters) from the main village water wells.

"Sainy-Gobain Performance Plastics is committed to helping the people of Hoosick Falls with this situation," said Carmen Ferrigno, company spokesman. Although not identified the source of contamination of PFOA, Saint-Gobain leads since November paying bottled water to residents and has agreed to pay to withdraw the substance filters water supply, he said.

Hickey and Martinez, along with environmental lawyer David Engel Albany, were not satisfied. They wanted the people not to drink tap water, and a full investigation and compensation should be found.

Engel contacted Judith Enck, who heads the section of the EPA which includes New York. She issued a statement in December warning people not to drink or cook with water from the village. Until then, state and local authorities had told the neighbors that it was unlikely that water will cause health problems.

On January 14, Enck and a committee of leading scientists from the EPA spoke to a packed auditorium at the high school of Hoosick Falls room. The State Department also announced recently made plans to study cancer rates in the town and its surroundings.

"We give high priority to this problem of pollution," Enck said. "It takes a very detailed report on groundwater in Hoosick Falls try to know what and how to approach study."

The plan of the town of installing filters in the water plant is a good first step, Engel said, but the long-term solution should be to establish new wells to replace contaminated.

Kevin Allard, 58, who worked at the plant of plastics in the 1980s, said his mother died of pancreatic cancer at age 54 and his father died of thyroid cancer at age 81. In 2006 a friend Allard's son, 25, died of pancreatic cancer. Now he fears for the health of their children, who are at the beginning of the thirties.

"They grew up with that water," he said. "That's what worries me."

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