A landfill in their backyard


NEW YORK — The closure of one of many world’s largest landfills, Fresh Kills, in March 2001 was a victory for residents on New York City’s Staten Island, who complained in regards to the waste website for years.

But that victory was diminished when, after the September 11th assaults, then-Governor George Pataki reopened Fresh Kills and staff transported more than 1.8 million tons of debris, a few of it found to be toxic, from Ground Zero to the landfill. Nineteen years later, some Staten Islanders concern the inactive landfill and its contents — together with the 9/11 particles — is contributing to most cancers charges in the borough.

“I know way too many people with cancer on Staten Island,” mentioned Jamielee Nelson, who recalled standing on her balcony in Staten Island’s Rossville neighborhood after 9/11 and watching smoke rising from Ground Zero.

The 32-year-old, who mentioned there is no such thing as a historical past of most cancers in her household, mentioned she worries that residing close to the previous landfill is linked to the breast most cancers analysis she acquired final yr.


Jamielee Nelson lives close to Fresh Kills. She was identified with breast most cancers in March 2019. (Will Lanzoni/CNN)

Three years in the past, the town well being division launched a examine — the third of its type in 25 years — to research considerations like Nelson’s and located little proof to hyperlink residing close to the previous landfill and most cancers.

In a report published in January, the examine’s researchers mentioned they in contrast incidence charges for 17 cancers in the realm round Fresh Kills to the remainder of Staten Island and New York City. They discovered that between 1995 and 2015, grownup residents of Staten Island suffered from sure cancers at barely or reasonably increased charges than residents in different boroughs.

In adults residing in the realm round Fresh Kills throughout the identical interval, there have been statistically important elevations in 5 most cancers sorts — bladder, breast, kidney, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and thyroid — when in comparison with residents elsewhere in Staten Island.

But the traits for every most cancers kind “did not show a consistent increase over time or between men and women,” they wrote, suggesting different components had been accountable.

A proximity evaluation, which modeled what number of most cancers circumstances may very well be defined by distance to Fresh Kills, discovered that not one of the 5 most cancers sorts had elevated charges nearer to Fresh Kills between 1995 and 2004, though it did discover that some thyroid and bladder most cancers charges had been increased close to the previous landfill website between 2005 and 2015. But the researchers nonetheless noticed little proof of a hyperlink to the landfill as a result of they might not discover any affordable explanations for a way residents would have come into contact with supplies in the landfill that had been recognized or suspected to trigger bladder or thyroid cancers, particularly since Fresh Kills closed.

“More plausible” explanations, the authors wrote, had been increased screening charges for thyroid most cancers and Staten Islanders’ increased smoking charges. Smoking is a recognized danger issue for bladder most cancers.

The most cancers charges have underscored decades-long tensions between Staten Island and the town of New York.

Long-nicknamed the “forgotten borough,” Staten Island is the town’s smallest by inhabitants. With just below half one million residents, its inhabitants represents about 6% of the town’s. It has a decrease poverty price and the next median family earnings. Compared to a lot of the town, which is dense and dotted with skyscrapers, Staten Island is extra suburban, with many single-family houses and few tall buildings. It’s additionally much less numerous; about 60% of Staten Islanders establish as White in accordance with current Census estimates, in comparison with 32% in the remainder of the town.

In January, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene printed a report investigating potential well being results round Fresh Kills. The former landfill, which was as soon as the world’s largest, closed in March 2001. But sixteen hours after the World Trade Center’s first tower collapsed, particles started to reach at Fresh Kills and a part of the previous landfill was reworked right into a forensic website.

Though it has extra registered Democrats than Republicans, Staten Island is the one borough the place Republicans have received in any of the final six presidential elections. Two of its three metropolis council members are Republicans.

In 1993, virtually two-thirds of Staten Islanders voted to secede from New York City. (The state legislature blocked the trouble.) Fresh Kills — which will get its identify from kille, an archaic Dutch phrase for riverbeds or waterways — was on voters’ minds even then. A Washington Post article from the era referred to as the landfill the “primary reason most islanders cite for wanting to end ties” with the remainder of the town; residents, the paper reported, had come to see the landfill as a “fetid symbol” of its strained relationship with the bigger metropolis.

Jonathan Eisler-Grynsztajn, 25, mentioned as a baby, he watched as vehicles from Ground Zero drove by means of his neighborhood and unloaded tons of wreckage at Fresh Kills. For residents like Eisler-Grynsztajn, the reason for their communities’ increased most cancers charges is clear. However, researchers have discovered little proof that the landfill is a contributing issue. City officers have pointed to a number of different components, equivalent to smoking and overscreening, as potential causes for the upper most cancers charges. Consequently, some neighborhood members mentioned they really feel ignored, insulted and deserted.

The neighborhood is correct to be involved, Philip Landrigan, who directs Boston College’s Global Public Health Program and Global Pollution Observatory and has studied the well being results of 9/11 particles on cleanup staff, mentioned.

While Landrigan and his crew didn’t gather samples from the landfill after 9/11, they did find toxic materials — glass fibers, asbestos, lead and pesticides — in air and dirt samples taken from Ground Zero.

“They can point to the undeniable fact that there are toxic and cancer-causing materials in the landfill,” Landrigan mentioned. “They’re absolutely within their rights to argue that this landfill has to be meticulously watched for years or even decades to come.”


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Crushed vehicles and a NYPD van are among the many particles at Fresh Kills after 9/11. (Michael Falco)

City officers have sought to look at Fresh Kills’ potential well being results earlier than. A 1996 report and its addendum, in 2000, advisable additional monitoring of the positioning. Unlike the newest examine, the earlier ones didn’t discover statistically important elevations in most cancers charges across the landfill when in comparison with the remainder of Staten Island.

The state additionally regarded into Staten Island’s most cancers charges and printed its own study final yr.

That examine’s authors discovered the most cancers price was 17% increased on Staten Island in comparison with the remainder of the town and three% increased in comparison with the state outdoors New York City. Thyroid most cancers on Staten Island was almost 70% increased than in the remainder of the town and state, although the state’s researchers couldn’t establish any environmental exposures and urged that the outcomes are skewed as a result of Staten Island medical doctors display screen for and diagnose thyroid most cancers at increased charges than different elements of the town and state.

Dr. Maaike van Gerwen, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Mount Sinai, mentioned it is a believable clarification for the rise in thyroid most cancers charges, particularly as a result of, in accordance with the state’s report, almost all the rise in Staten Island thyroid most cancers has been for small tumors that trigger no signs.

Once a neighborhood is conscious of an increase in thyroid most cancers, van Gerwen added, they might be extra prone to get screened, and medical doctors could also be extra prone to search for the most cancers.

In a press release, state well being division spokeswoman Erin Silk mentioned the report’s findings urged that “practices in the medical care system may be influencing thyroid cancer incidence on Staten Island” and that well being care suppliers ought to keep away from performing thyroid most cancers screenings for individuals with out signs and at common danger.

Mapping most cancers close to Fresh Kills

A current metropolis well being division examine checked out incidence charges for 17 cancers in the realm round Fresh Kills. While most cancers charges across the landfill had been increased when in comparison with the remainder of Staten Island, charges had been solely meaningfully elevated for 5 — bladder, breast, kidney, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and thyroid most cancers — and the examine discovered little proof of an affiliation between residing near the previous Fresh Kills Landfill and most cancers.

Rates are age-adjusted incidence charges (per 100,000 between 1995 and 2015).

Source: New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Studies have proven that about 80% of all thyroid cancers are papillary cancers which might be slow-growing and infrequently deadly. While research haven’t proven that thyroid screening is immediately dangerous, well being authorities, such as the US Preventative Service Task Force, have advisable towards it for asymptomatic adults as a result of it could result in overdiagnosis and dangerous therapy of innocent tumors.

Eisler-Grynsztajn, who was identified with papillary thyroid most cancers in March 2019, mentioned he was fortunate to be identified.

“(My cancer) was discovered totally by accident,” Eisler-Grynsztajn, who had surgical procedure to take away the thyroid most cancers from his neck in 2019, mentioned. Eisler-Grynsztajn’s most cancers was identified throughout therapy for a fall he sustained whereas jogging. “Had that fall not happened, I would not have known that (I had cancer).”

Melissa Bondy, who chairs Stanford University’s epidemiology and inhabitants well being division, mentioned “there’s definitely limitations in what we learn” from descriptive analysis like the town’s examine, which solely appears for patterns in current information.

While the report was an acceptable first step in dissecting the problem, Beate Ritz, a professor of epidemiology and environmental well being at UCLA, mentioned a deeper investigation would require interviewing Staten Island residents about their life, jobs, experiences residing close to the landfill and medical histories, all components that may play a task in inflicting most cancers.

Michael Lanza, a spokesman for the town’s well being division, wrote in an electronic mail that the town’s methodology was “the only appropriate approach” for investigating whether or not so many cancers had been linked to environmental publicity. Investigating a single most cancers, Lanza added, can be troublesome as a result of it will require controlling for different danger components and learning hundreds of individuals over a few years. A retrospective follow-up examine, which might contain interviewing sufferers about previous exposures, can be unrealistic, he mentioned, as a result of individuals transfer, the town was “unable to identify exposures from the landfill that might be plausibly linked to the cancers of concern” and since “there is no way to quantify potential exposures from decades past.”

Eisler-Grynsztajn, who lives in Staten Island’s Huguenot neighborhood, mentioned he doesn’t really feel like residents have been heard.

“(The city should) talk to the cancer survivors and patients who are still dealing with this,” Eisler-Grynsztajn mentioned. “Let them tell their stories.”


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Jonathan Eisler-Grynsztajn was identified with papillary thyroid most cancers in March 2019. (Will Lanzoni/CNN)

Nelson, the lady who’s being handled for breast most cancers, mentioned the report isn’t sufficient.

“They didn’t do their job,” Nelson mentioned. “The city never reached out to me. Not once. To ask me about my cancer — nothing. I don’t feel like they care at all.”

In a press release, Chris D’Andrea, an assistant commissioner in the town well being division’s environmental well being division, mentioned the newest examine’s findings had been in line with earlier investigations of Fresh Kills.

“This is the third study we’ve conducted in the last 25 years looking at cancer patterns that might be associated with living near Fresh Kills, and our findings do not suggest that potential exposures from the former landfill have contributed to elevated cancer rates in the surrounding communities,” he mentioned.

D’Andrea added that the company will proceed to offer most cancers prevention sources and stay vigilant in monitoring most cancers charges on Staten Island.

Staten Island City Council Member Joe Borelli has pushed for a extra thorough investigation into Fresh Kills since he was elected in 2015. Borelli grew up in the district he represents and mentioned he might see the landfill from his childhood bed room in the island’s Village Greens part.

The landfill opened in 1948 and, at its peak, absorbed as a lot as 29,000 tons of trash per day. A 2000 federal report revealed the encompassing air contained carcinogens together with benzene, which is used to make plastics and pesticides; chloroform, which is used to make other chemical compounds; and vinyl chloride, which is used to make pipes and fabric. The contaminants had been at ranges that exceeded federal requirements, however the report’s authors mentioned the chemical compounds posed no obvious public well being hazard. By the time Fresh Kills closed in 2001, the massive swath of the borough’s western shore was the one functioning municipal landfill inside metropolis limits, and contained family trash — meals waste, paper, garments — from throughout all 5 boroughs.

Residents recalled how the landfill stank, particularly on heat days. Some mentioned it smelled like sewage; others mentioned like a rotting corpse.

“We have a swimming pool (and) nobody wanted to even go swimming because (of) the stench.” Eisler-Grynsztajn recalled. “That’s how bad it was.”

To Staten Islanders, the landfill grew to become a looming image of their resentment towards the remainder of New York City. The final barge ferrying trash to the landfill, bearing the celebratory banner “Last Garbage Barge to Fresh Kills,” docked on March 22, 2001.


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A barge carrying what was believed to be the final load of rubbish to Fresh Kills heads previous Manhattan towards Staten Island in March 2001. (Keith Meyers/The New York Times/Redux)

Sixteen hours after the World Trade Center’s first tower collapsed, particles started to reach at Fresh Kills.

A portion of the previous landfill was reworked into an enormous crime scene as barges transported mountains of particles by vehicles and later by barges from decrease Manhattan.

Borelli, a school scholar on the time, mentioned Staten Islanders didn’t object to the state’s resolution to make use of Fresh Kills as a restoration space.

“We had lost so many of our neighbors,” Borelli mentioned. “It felt like more of a duty than a burden.”

Workers spent greater than 10 months sifting by means of rubble in search of proof from the assaults together with aircraft elements, workplace ID badges, jewellery and human stays.

“It was one of the most upsetting things I’ve ever seen,” lawyer Michael Barasch, who has dealt with private harm circumstances for 9/11 first responders and ****visited the positioning in the months following the assaults, mentioned. “You knew that people’s bodies and bones and tissue were inside this mass (of debris).”

In July 2002, Fresh Kills closed once more. But neighborhood members, Borelli mentioned, nonetheless anxious about Fresh Kills.

“It was something the old guys would opine about in a bar and it’s something moms would discuss just about health in their family,” Borelli, the town council member, mentioned.


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Workers at Fresh Kills sift by means of rubble faraway from Ground Zero in 2002. They had been in search of recoverable objects, together with physique elements that had been used to assist establish victims. (Michael Falco)

ID playing cards discovered in the stays of the World Trade Center are sorted in an proof decontamination room at Fresh Kills. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Firearms had been among the many objects recovered from the wreckage. (Michael Falco)

In 2017, Borelli referred to as on leaders to conduct a examine. In December 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced at a town hall that the town would fund a $350,000 examine — the identical one printed earlier this yr — inspecting the results of Fresh Kills on close by residents.

Staten Islanders don’t solely suspect Fresh Kills as a ****potential environmental explanation for their well being issues. The island is house to Brookfield Park, a former landfill the place unlawful poisonous dumping occurred in the 1970s. The former landfill, which closed in 1980, was in the areas examined in the 1996 and 2020 metropolis research. And a cleanup challenge has been underway on the island’s Great Kills Park since 2005, when radium, a recognized carcinogen, was discovered on the website.

Understanding the previous landfill’s well being results will stay related, consultants mentioned, as a result of the town plans to transform Fresh Kills into Freshkills, a sprawling park that it expects to totally open in 2036.

At 2,200 acres, the finished park will probably be almost triple the dimensions of Central Park — or the equal of 1,660 soccer fields. Planned points of interest embody playgrounds, athletic fields, horseback driving trails and a wildlife refuge.

To make sure the park is protected for guests, the landfill, which is split into 4 “mounds,” will probably be lined by a soil layer, a fuel vent layer that traps methane, a layer of thick vinyl, a drainage layer, one other barrier layer, after which a layer of soil. This cap is between three and, in some locations, 12 toes deep. Three of the mounds have already been capped; the fourth is anticipated to be accomplished in 2021.

“There is a lot between (the) people walking on the top and what people threw away,” Eloise Hirsh, the parks division official overseeing the transformation, mentioned.


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The Owl Hollow athletic fields are a part of Freshkills Park. The improvement challenge is popping what was as soon as the world’s largest landfill right into a 2,200-acre park. (Will Lanzoni/CNN)

New York City Department of Sanitation spokeswoman Belinda Mager mentioned that the division has been conducting groundwater, floor water and sediment assessments at Fresh Kills for many years. Mager mentioned that whereas the division doesn’t conduct air monitoring at Fresh Kills, the system that burns and purifies landfill fuel is in compliance with emission necessities.

For some residents, like Debra Santulli-Barone, 65, the thought of a park on prime of the landfill is frightening.

Santulli-Barone, who moved from Brooklyn to Staten Island’s Huguenot neighborhood in 1985, was identified with breast most cancers in 2014 and leukemia in 2015.

“Now having two cancers, I don’t want to use that park … I don’t want to push my luck,” Santulli-Barone mentioned. “Everyone wants to believe (the construction of the park is) great, God bless them, but I’m scared. And a lot of people like me feel the same.”

In the years after 9/11, some staff who had been uncovered to mess at Ground Zero and Fresh Kills started to wrestle with well being issues.

In 2006, NYPD detective James Zadroga emerged as a harbinger of the uphill battle 9/11 some survivors would face in attempting to show their sicknesses had been a results of their time at Ground Zero. Zadroga died at age 34 at his mother and father’ house in New Jersey. A coroner attributed mud discovered in his lungs to Ground Zero, reportedly making him the primary rescuer whose loss of life was medically linked to mud inhalation from the positioning. New York City officers rejected the discovering. In a letter to Zadroga’s household, then-Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch, who died in 2016, wrote it was his workplace’s “unequivocal opinion, with certainty beyond doubt, that the foreign material in (Zadroga’s) lungs did not get there as a result of inhaling dust at the World Trade Center or elsewhere.”


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NYPD detective James Zadroga’s funeral is held in 2006. His loss of life was reportedly the primary to be linked to publicity to the mud at Ground Zero. (Richard Perry/The New York Times/Redux)

The metropolis has acknowledged that hundreds endure from 9/11-related well being circumstances and added Zadroga to New York City’s Hall of Heroes in decrease Manhattan, which honors NYPD members who died in the road of obligation. But the conflicting findings and ensuing controversy in Zadroga’s case set the stage for a way certainty about trigger and impact can be elusive for a lot of households. Zadroga would later turn out to be the namesake for federal legislation, enacted in 2011, to increase well being monitoring and compensation for first responders and survivors whose sicknesses had been associated to 9/11.

Barasch, who represented Zadroga, mentioned Staten Island residents are receiving comparable therapy from the town.

“They take the debris. They load it onto barges […] and dumped it then at the Fresh Kills landfill where dust went flying everywhere,” Barasch mentioned. “If you lived across the street from the landfill, of course you were going to get exposed to the same carcinogens as Jimmy Zadroga and the entire 9/11 community.”


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Lawyer Michael Barasch has dealt with private harm circumstances for 9/11 first responders. (Will Lanzoni/CNN)

Through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), the federal authorities allowed victims or staff who suffered a 9/11 harm or situation — including dozens of cancers — to file a declare for federal support.

President Donald Trump signed a bill final summer season that may present cash for the VCF by means of 2090. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the fund’s extension would value about $10 billion over the subsequent decade.

The Justice Department-administered fund covers those that had been injured whereas residing, working visiting or attending faculty in decrease Manhattan under Canal Street in the months following 9/11.

However, the Canal Street line — which the VCF first drew in 2001 — was arbitrary, lawyer Joel Kupferman, the chief director on the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, mentioned.

“The path of transmission was a lot farther than just Canal Street,” Kupferman mentioned. “How could they say particles didn’t travel farther? This stuff travels for miles and miles and miles.”

In 2006, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory estimated that contents of the World Trade Center plume traveled at the very least 44 miles from Ground Zero.

The federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund distributes support to 9/11 victims who grew to become ailing after or whereas residing, working, visiting or attending faculty in the New York City publicity zone in the months following the assaults. The zone contains “the area in Manhattan south of the line that runs along Canal Street from the Hudson River to the intersection of Canal Street and East Broadway, north on East Broadway to Clinton Street, and east on Clinton Street to the East River; and any area related to or along the routes of debris removal, such as barges and Fresh Kills landfill.” It’s unclear whether or not the VCF covers residents who lived close to Fresh Kills.

Kenneth Feinberg, who ran the VCF as particular grasp in 2001 and oversaw drawing the publicity zone’s boundaries, mentioned his crew selected Canal Street as a result of, in their view, it obeyed the letter of the regulation.

“We simply made a decision that, since the Federal statute creating the Fund required that deaths and physical injuries occur in the ‘immediate vicinity of the World Trade Center’ we conclude that Canal Street rather than Houston satisfied the statutory requirement,” Feinberg wrote in an electronic mail.

Feinberg added that his crew didn’t depend on well being information or consultants to attract the geographic boundaries.

“Our decision was based on statutory interpretation,” he wrote. “A legal not a medical question.”

Feinberg’s fund closed in 2003. In 2011, the federal Zadroga Act reopened the VCF and approved its new particular grasp to designate new publicity zone boundaries. When the fund was reauthorized in 2015, Congress wrote the Canal Street boundaries into the regulation. Sheila Birnbaum, who served because the 2011 fund’s particular grasp, didn’t reply to request for remark.

The fund covers individuals who labored on the barges and at Fresh Kills landfill. But it’s unclear whether or not the VCF’s eligibility zone extends to residents who lived close to Fresh Kills.

Remains of a Rodin sculpture and airplane elements lie collectively at Fresh Kills in 2002. (Michael Falco)

An American flag recovered from the World Trade Center particles hangs on a wall at Fresh Kills. (Michael Falco)

Lawyer Gregory Cannata, who has represented 9/11 victims and staff for almost 20 years, mentioned that if a Staten Island resident with most cancers might present that they had been recurrently uncovered to mud due to wind and proximity to the landfill, there’s “a strong argument to be made that there’s a link between the two.”

Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for the VCF, mentioned it was not conscious of any claims filed by residents who lived close to the landfill. Navas couldn’t say what number of claims or how a lot cash the VCF has permitted for individuals who labored at Fresh Kills as a result of, she mentioned, it doesn’t possess detailed information on the place claimants labored. But federal courtroom filings present that, by means of private harm settlements with the town and its contractors, hundreds of thousands of {dollars} have gone to 1,800 cleanup staff who suffered from well being issues after working at Fresh Kills.

In 2012, lawyer Chris LoPalo and his then-firm helped to barter a $24 million settlement for nearly 2,000 plaintiffs who labored for 3 contractors that operated on the landfill following 9/11. In the identical litigation, insurers paid a $28 million settlement to greater than 1,300 plaintiffs who operated the barges that transported particles from Manhattan to Fresh Kills.


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Investigators use conveyors to sift by means of the 9/11 rubble at Fresh Kills. (Michael Falco)

LoPalo recalled that the town’s attorneys “vigorously” challenged every declare. LoPalo mentioned the attorneys denied claims of respirator shortages and pointed to different components that may very well be inflicting sicknesses, equivalent to way of life, genetics and different occupational exposures.

“They would blame every other possible causation factor besides the World Trade Center dust as being the cause of the injury,” LoPalo recalled.

The metropolis’s regulation division didn’t reply to repeated requests for remark.

Experts mentioned it’s difficult to show that an individual’s most cancers got here from a particular environmental publicity like Fresh Kills. While the specifics fluctuate, a number of research in the 1990s linked different waste websites in the United States and Canada to attainable elevated dangers of quite a lot of cancers, together with leukemia, bladder, stomach, liver, lung, prostate and cervical most cancers. But the American Cancer Society says many components — an individual’s setting, their way of life, their genes — make individuals extra inclined to most cancers and consultants mentioned it may be troublesome to establish only one supply. In 2002, a UK study concluded that its analysis didn’t “support suggestions of excess risks of cancer associated with landfill sites.”

Julie Herbstman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, was one in all 15 advisers who offered suggestions in the course of the metropolis’s examine course of. She mentioned she wasn’t certain if the report’s outcomes warrant additional analysis.

“I’m really very sympathetic to the situation and understand why people are concerned,” Herbstman mentioned. “It’s just not that easy scientifically to be able to link an exposure as broad as a landfill to these cancers.”

Identifying so-called most cancers clusters is notoriously troublesome as a result of proving their existence requires great sources, a number of consultants informed CNN.

A most cancers cluster, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is “a greater-than-expected number of cancer cases that occurs within a group of people in a geographic area over a period of time.”

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Go There: Staten Island’s Fresh Kills landfill 09:37

Dr. Otis Brawley, an oncology and epidemiology professor at Johns Hopkins University, mentioned that an epidemiological examine of Staten Island’s most cancers charges — which might be extra sturdy than the town’s descriptive report — can be prolonged and costly.

“It’s going to cost something in the neighborhood of $5 million a year, and it’s going to run somewhere between five and 10 years long,” Brawley mentioned.

Staten Island’s plight isn’t unusual, Brawley, who was the chief medical officer on the American Cancer Society from 2007 to 2018, mentioned. Communities with elevated most cancers charges usually level to an environmental publicity because the supply of their downside, however researchers are hardly ever capable of join the 2, he mentioned.

“It is simply beyond the reaches of science,” Brawley mentioned, including that whereas it’s “relatively easy” to determine a correlation, unknown variables make it troublesome for scientists to say, with confidence, what causes sure cancers.

Beate Ritz, an epidemiology and environmental well being sciences professor at UCLA, agreed {that a} extra sturdy examine can be expensive as a result of it will require interviewing Staten Islanders about their jobs, residences and household histories. Even then, she mentioned, it may very well be troublesome to show something. Ritz argued these sources needs to be put towards stopping most cancers in the neighborhood as an alternative of figuring out its trigger.

“Do cancer screening, do cancer prevention efforts, listen to the community, and don’t sink money into a study that may or may not give you an answer,” Ritz mentioned.

Lanza, the town well being division spokesman, mentioned the town “routinely” encourages most cancers screenings and promotes most cancers preventative behaviors, equivalent to smoking cessation, wholesome consuming and bodily exercise by means of varied media campaigns. The division additionally operates a registry to trace well being information on 9/11 survivors.

David O. Carpenter, who ran the state well being division’s analysis heart in the 1980s and now runs the State University of New York at Albany’s Institute for Health and the Environment, mentioned he thinks governments typically have incentives to attenuate considerations about environmental exposures.

“In the case of the landfill, the government wants to make it into a park and wants to be able to say that is no problem,” Carpenter mentioned.


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Kayakers get pleasure from Freshkills Park’s waterways throughout a public preview of the park in 2013. When accomplished, the leisure space will probably be almost 3 times the dimensions of Central Park. (Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images)

David Ozonoff, who chaired Boston University’s environmental well being division from 1977 to 2003, has written about how governments typically depend on the vagaries of most cancers causes to steer public dialog away from environmental considerations.

“The response usually is to sort of make the problem go away by saying, ‘it could be all sorts of stuff,’” Ozonoff, who has studied public well being businesses’ response to waste website considerations in Massachusetts and upstate New York, mentioned.

Blaming a neighborhood’s way of life, he wrote in 1987, is “politically safer.” It’s efficient as a result of the reason is very believable, Ozonoff mentioned in an interview, and prevents cities and states from having to spend cash on deeper investigation.

Lanza, the town well being division’s spokesman, didn’t handle Carpenter and Ozonoff’s particular claims when requested. But D’Andrea, the assistant commissioner, mentioned in a press release that the division was “committed to protecting the health and safety of all New Yorkers.”

Richard Clapp, a professor emeritus of environmental well being at Boston University, mentioned Staten Island may even see an increase in cancers in the years to return.

“Most cancers take greater than 19 years to essentially present up,” Clapp mentioned, referencing the 9/11 particles dropped at Staten Island in 2001. He added that doing one other examine in 5 years after which once more in 10 years is suitable to observe the well being of the neighborhood.


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Staten Island City Council Member Joe Borelli has pushed for a extra thorough investigation into Fresh Kills since he was elected in 2015. He grew up in the district he represents. (Will Lanzoni/CNN)

Monitoring a neighborhood’s well being will be costly, however Borelli pointed to an apparent supply of funding. For greater than a decade the town has trapped methane fuel at Fresh Kills and bought it to National Grid, a regional utility. Revenue has declined because the landfill produces much less methane, however data from the New York City Sanitation Department shows that since 2007, the town has acquired at the very least $58 million for fuel from Fresh Kills. The cash goes into the town’s common fund, which helps pay the town’s day by day working bills, equivalent to utilities, tools and metropolis workers’ journey bills and salaries.

“That’s a clear source of revenue that should go back to Staten Islanders,” Borelli mentioned. “We know we have a cancer problem — whatever the cause is.”

Some Staten Islanders, together with Eisler-Grynsztajn, need a deeper investigation into the landfill and the potential well being results of the 9/11 particles. He mentioned he hopes the town will interview most cancers sufferers and survivors in his neighborhood.

“They brought that stuff out here,” Eisler-Grynsztajn mentioned. “But (they) forgot about the residents of Staten Island they dumped it on.”



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