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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
|Poonam Alaigh, MD, MSHCPM, FACP|
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At a community meeting this evening, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) will present an analysis of state cancer registry data that found elevated rates for some cancers in Pompton Lakes. Cancer statistics alone cannot link elevated rates to any environmental or other cause.
Cancer is a group of more than 100 diseases. Different types of cancer have different causes, which can include smoking, heavy alcohol use, diet, inherited conditions and occupational exposures.
Pompton Lakes residents had requested the statistical analysis as a follow-up to two 2009 reports on groundwater contamination from the DuPont Pompton Lakes Works site as well as cancer rates among residents living closest to the contamination. The groundwater is contaminated with volatile organic compounds from the site of the former explosives manufacturing plant.
The latest report, based on data from the New Jersey State Cancer Registry, expands the cancer analysis to include the entire town of Pompton Lakes, adds one more year of data, and examines 15 cancers that are the most common—or are of specific concern to residents.
The statistical analysis examines the overall cancer rate and rates for 15 cancers from 1979 through 2007, the latest year of data available from the state Cancer Registry. The 15 cancer types are: prostate, breast, ovarian, cervical, lung, colorectal, bladder, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma, leukemia, pancreas, thyroid, brain and liver.
According to the report, women in Pompton Lakes had a statistically significantly elevated overall cancer rate and lung cancer rate during the 29-year study period. In the case of lung cancer, the women’s rate was high for the first 11 years (1979 to 1989), but was not elevated in the later years of the study period, 1990 through 2007.
The high lung cancer rate in the early years may have driven up the total lung cancer rate, as well as contributing to the elevated overall cancer rate in women, the report notes.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both the U.S. and New Jersey. Smoking causes 80 to 90 percent of cases of lung cancer, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Other risk factors include second-hand smoke, air pollution, high doses of ionizing radiation and residential radon exposure, as well as occupational exposures to heavy metals, asbestos and other substances.
Men’s overall cancer rates, though slightly higher than expected, were not significantly elevated during the study period. Colorectal cancer in men was significantly elevated during the later years of the study – 1990 to 2007 – but not in the earlier period.
Researchers have not found a link between colorectal cancer and environmental contaminants. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, with risk factors such as personal or family history of colorectal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, older age, and a diet high in fat, among other factors.
Late last year, DHSS released two reports developed in cooperation with ATSDR. The cancer incidence report found elevated rates of two types of cancer --kidney cancer in women and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in men. The vapor intrusion report found that long-term exposure to contaminants at levels found during indoor air testing were not likely to be harmful to health. However, the report restated an earlier recommendation to eliminate any health risk by installing vapor mitigation systems.
At tonight’s meeting, DHSS also will outline further steps that will be taken to address residents’ health concerns. A physician expert in environmental health from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will hold medical education sessions with local physicians in early summer. In addition, the department will make its data available for independent review.
The community meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Pompton Lakes High School, 44 Lakeside Avenue, Pompton Lakes.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the groundwater, such as trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene, can evaporate and form gases that can move through soil and seep into homes through cracks.
Vapor mitigation systems have been installed in about 170 of the 480 homes above the contaminated groundwater. DuPont will install the systems at no cost or pay for a company of the resident’s choice to do the work.
“We continue to urge residents living near contaminated groundwater to have special vapor mitigation systems installed, if they have not already done so,” said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Susan Walsh. “These systems, which can be installed at no cost to homeowners, can remove gases that may contaminate the air inside their homes.”
DHSS has been working closely with the mayor and with residents and will continue to meet regularly with a community advisory group.
The DuPont explosives manufacturing plant closed in the 1990s. Waste management practices had lead to significant contamination of soils, surface water and ground water, both on and off the site. DuPont has been involved in site remediation efforts.
The report is available on the DHSS web site at www.state.nj.us/health.
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Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360