CANCER CLUSTERS: STATEN ISLAND

July 24, 2018 at 4:30 am

We continue our investigation into cancer clusters on Staten Island. We explore why the borough’s residents are gravely concerned about having lived on the edges of the “Fresh Kills” landfill. We also have the reaction from a community.

Aired on July 23, 2018. 

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>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO
METROFOCUS. I'M RAFAEL P. RAMON.
WITH CANCER CLUSTERS IN PARTS OF
NEW YORK, BOTH THE CITY AND
STATE HAVE PLEDGED FUNDS TO
INVESTIGATE THE POTENTIAL
DANGERS.
RECENTLY COMMITTING $50,000 TO
LOOK AT THE FRESH GILLS SIDE ON
STATEN ISLAND SHUT DOWN 16 YEARS
AGO BUT ONCE THE LARGEST
LANDFILL IN THE WORLD BUT ONCE
USED AS A DUMPING SITE FOR
DEBRIS FROM THE WORLD TRADE
CENTER.
AND THOSE WHOSE HEALTH MAY HAVE
BEEN IMPACTED BY IT WAS
SPEARHEADED BY COUNCIL MEMBER
JOSEPH BORELLI, WHOSE CHILDHOOD
WED ROOM FACED THE FRESH KILLS
LANDFILL.
FIRST OF ALL, COUNCILMAN, WHAT
ARE THE CANCER STATISTICS OF
YOUR BOROUGH THAT MAKE STATEN
ISLAND, OR AT LEAST A PART OF
STATEN ISLAND A CANCER CLUSTER?
>> THEY'RE ALARMING.
THEY'RE THE TYPE OF CANCERS YOU
REALLY DON'T WANT, IF YOU CAN
IMAGINE THAT.
FOR WOMEN, BREAST CANCER,
THYROID, LARYNX, RECENTLY,
KIDNEY CANCER.
THE TYPE OF CANCERS WE SEE NEAR
FRESH KILLS RUN THE GAMUT AND GO
INTO OTHER TYPES OF ILLNESSES
LIKE ASTHMA AND BIRTH DEFECTS.
>> HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO STATEN
ISLANDS AND OTHER BOROUGHS.
>> IT IS NEARLY DOUBLE THE
AMOUNT OF THE OTHER BOROUGHS.
TRULY ASTONISHING.
WE DO CANCER SCREENINGS FOR MY
CONSTITUENTS.
I HAVE TO ADMIT I SAT DOWN WITH
MY PHOTO-OP AND GOT MYSELF
SCREENED AND HAD TO FOLLOW WAKE
UP MY DOCTOR.
I'M OKAY BUT IT WAS A SCARE BUT
SOMETHING THOSE WHO GREW UP
AROUND THE LANDFILL WILL HAVE TO
FOLLOW-UP THE REST OF OUR LIVES.
>> TELL US ABOUT THE FRESH KILLS
LANDFILL.
THE SITE WAS USED FIVE DECADES.
WHY WAS IT SHUT DOWN AND WHAT IS
IT USED FOR TODAY?
>> FROM 2008 TO 2001, IT WAS THE
CITY'S LARGEST LANDFAILL, LIKE
YOU SAID THE LARGEST IN THE
WORLD, SOMETHING I SAW FROM MY
BEDROOM GROWING UP.
ONE THING MOST STATEN ISLANDERS
REMEMBER WAS THE AWFUL SMELL.
YOU THINK BACK AT IT TALKING TO
HEALTH EXPERTS, WHEN YOU SMELL
THE DUMP YOU ARE ACTUALLY
INHALING PARTICULATE MATTER AND
THAT LED TO PRESSURE TO CLOSE
THE DUMP PRIOR TO THE 2001
CLOSURE.
AT THE TIME THERE WAS A STUDY
THAT WEIGHED THE HEALTH IMPACTS
OF THE DUMP.
IT TURNS OUT STATEN ISLANDERS
WERE LIKELY CONTAMINATED BY
PARTICULATE MATTER THAT WOULD
CAUSE CARCINOGENS.
THERE'S ASTHMA PROBLEMS AS WELL.
ASTHMA, IF THE AIR QUALITY IS
LOWER, ONE DAY YOU MIGHT SHOW
SIGNS OF ASTHMA THE NEXT DAY.
WITH CANCER, THE AUDIENCE IS
AWARE, IT COULD TAKE 10, 20
YEARS TO APPEAR.
THAT'S THE PHASE WE'RE AT NOW,
20 YEARS AFTER THIS STUDY AND
GLAD THERE ARE TWO PANELS
EXAMINING THIS.
>> GO INTO THE CITY AND STATE
STUDIES.
WHAT ARE THEY SPECIFICALLY
STUDYING AND HOW DO THEY DIFFER
FROM EACH OTHER?
>> THE STATE STUDY IS FOCUSED
SPECIFIC CLUSTERS AROUND THE
STATE AND PARTS OF STATEN ISLAND
AND ELSEWHERE AROUND THE STATE.
THEY'RE LOOKING AT A BROADER
BASED POPULATION AND THE ENTIRE
ISLAND.
THE CITY IS AROUND FRESH KILLS
AND PEOPLE LIKE ME, LIKE I SAID,
IT WAS SOMETHING I COULD SMELL
ON A WEEKLY BASIS, WHEN IT WAS
HOT AND THE WEATHER WAS RIGHT,
YOU KNEW YOU LIVED NEXT TO A
LANDFILL.
THE CITY'S FOCUS IS ON THAT.
THE LONG TERM EFFECTS ARE NOT
NECESSARILY THERE.
THE CITY HAS TAKEN EFFORTS TO
CAP AND SEAL AND CLEAN BOTH OF
THE SITES.
WE'RE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT WHAT
WAS DONE VIS-A-VIS CONTAMINATION
WHILE THE DUMP IS IN OPERATION
AND WHAT WAS THE LONG TERM RISK
FOR THAT POPULATION GOING
FORWARD.
>> WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO FIND FROM
THE STUDY, WHAT ARE THEY
STUDYING?
>> I EXPECT TO FIND CON CLUSIVE
EVIDENCE FRESH KILLS IS
RESPONSIBLE FOR SOME OF THE
CANCER RATE.
WE HAVE A HIGH RATE OF SMOKING
BUT THE FACT THERE'S A HIGH RATE
MIGHT NOT BE THAT SURPRISING.
WE KNOW IT'S LINKED TO GROUND
ZERO DEBRIS AND ALL OF THAT AT
FRESH KILLS.
THAT PARTICULATE MATTER WAS
BLOWING AROUND THE AIR.
>> THAT WAS AFTER FRESH KILLS
WAS CLOSED DOWN.
IT RE-OPENED TO TAKE THE DEBRIS
FROM 9/11, AS WE KNOW, HURT THE
HEALTH OF A LOT OF FIRST
RESPONDERS.
>> ON STATEN ISLAND WE HAVE A
LOT OF FIRST RESPONDERS AND
PEOPLE SUFFERING FROM THYROID
CANCER FROM THAT AND WE ALSO HAD
SANITATION WORKERS AND DIFFERENT
TYPES OF LABORER WORKERS IN THE
BUILDING TRADES ALSO EXPOSED
WHILE THEY WERE ON FRESH KILL,
SIFTING THROUGH THE RUBBLE.
IT'S SOMETHING STATEN ISLANDERS
ARE PROUD OF THAT WE CONTRIBUTED
TO SOME DEGREE TO THE 9/11
INCIDENT, BUT WE NEED TO KNOW IF
IT'S A JEOPARDY TO POPULATION
AND WE NEED DUPLICATE.
>> TO DETERMINE IF THERE IS A
LINK BETWEEN FRESH KILLS AND THE
CANCER AND OTHER DISEASES THAT
ARE SUFFERED BY PEOPLE IN STATEN
ISLAND, WHAT THEN?
WHAT DO YOU DO?
>> SURE.
NUMBER ONE, PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW
ABOUT IT.
NEED TO BE AWARE.
THE MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS WHO
SERVICE THESE POPULATIONS.
MANY OF THESE PEOPLE MOVED ON.
THEY MOVED ON AROUND THE COUNTRY
AND THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.
THEY NEED TO BE MADE AWARE, THE
MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS NEED TO BE
MADE AWARE AND MAKE SURE
SCREENINGS AND PREVENTIVE TYPE
MEASURES ARE BEING DONE FOR THIS
POPULATION.
THANKFULLY THE LANDFILL
GENERATES $10-12 MILLION A YEAR
ON THE SALE OF METHANE GAS AND
TAX ACROSS FOR CLEAN ENERGY.
THERE IS A REVENUE SOURCE TO
PROVIDE SERVICES FOR THESE
PEOPLE.
THAT'S IDEALLY THE LONG TERM
SOLUTION, NO SOLUTION FOR CANCER
AT THIS POINT, BUT LONG TERM
PREVENTATIVE MEASURES TO HELP
PEOPLE ON STATEN ISLAND.
>> THANK YOU, SENATOR FOR YOUR
EFFORTS TO GET TO THE BOTTOM
THIS.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, and Judy and Josh Weston.

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