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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENTSaipan Capacitors
(a/k/a Tanapag Village (Saipan))
Tanapag Village, Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Island
EPA Facility ID: MPD982524506
August 31, 2004




ATSDR's Child Health Initiative

ATSDR is committed to protecting children's health. ATSDR recognizes that infants and children might be more vulnerable than adults to environmental exposure. This vulnerability results from several factors, including (1) children are smaller than adults, resulting in higher doses of chemical exposure per unit body weight, (2) children are more likely to play outdoors and bring food into contaminated areas and, as a result, can contact and ingest soil particles at higher rates than adults, and (3) children's bodies can be more sensitive to the effects of chemical exposures. Children have developing body systems which can sustain permanent damage if toxic exposures occur during critical growth stages. Because of these sensitivities, ATSDR uses health guidelines that are protective for children.

ATSDR and CNMI DPH evaluated the extent of PCB exposure in children by measuring serum PCB, collecting exposure history information and performing a thorough medical examination. No PCB was detected in children's blood serum and no signs of PCB-induced illness were noted. Pregnant women received counseling to ensure they had a healthy pregnancy. No evidence of PCB exposures that would result in clinical harm to an unborn baby or nursing infant were observed.

Conclusions

PCB contamination in the village does not pose a current or future public health hazard.

Actions taken to investigate and remove PCB contamination in Tanapag were appropriate and necessary to protect public health and to reduce the potential for current and future PCB exposure. Contaminated soil has been removed from Tanapag Village, eliminating a major exposure source. As a result of the clean up, the PCB contamination does not pose a current or future health hazard to Tanapag Village residents. Some small degree of exposure may continue if people choose to consume land crab containing low levels of PCB, however this exposure would not be likely to result in health harm. Because exposure to low levels of PCB remaining in soil and in land crab may be possible but below levels of health concern, ATSDR classifies current and future exposure as no apparent health hazard.

PCB contamination in the past does not present a public health hazard.

The sum of available evidence indicates that although widespread, the PCB contamination in Tanapag has not appeared to harm the health of village residents. This determination is based upon several facts: 1) Based on the levels of PCBs detected in blood serum, it does not appear that the population experienced exposure to PCBs at levels of health concern; 2) The medical screening did not observe any clinical signs of illness that could be associated with PCB exposure; 3) Evaluation of the exposure history database revealed that there is insufficient evidence to indicate that contact with PCBs or PCB-contaminated items may have contributed to elevated serum PCB levels in a few village residents.

Although the results of the blood serum sampling indicates that over the past several years PCB exposures were below levels of health concern, it is possible that earlier exposures could have been higher. ATSDR is unable to determine the degree of past exposure and past public health impact with much certainty. Serum sampling results indicate that over the past several years, Tanapag residents have not experienced unusually high exposure. On average, serum PCB levels in Tanapag are within the range of U.S. background levels. A few residents have elevated serum PCB levels, indicating a higher degree of past exposure than the rest of the village population. These elevated blood levels are not high enough to result in clinically relevant adverse health effects. The blood tests do not reveal with much certainty what the specific source of exposure was or when it occurred. Because exposure did occur in the past, but not at levels likely to result in harm, ATSDR classifies past exposure as no apparent public health hazard.

Recommendations

Resample and analyze land crab tissue for PCB contamination. The EPA and CNMI DEQ should plan and conduct future crab sampling. With soil contamination reduced or eliminated, it is believed that future crab populations will not have the opportunity to accumulate PCB. Resampling in the future would serve as an assurance that removal of the PCB source results in a reduction in crab PCB contamination, and provide further reassurance that Tanapag land crab is safe to eat.

Evaluate future crab sampling data to determine if the need for a Tanapag land crab consumption advisory is warranted. Eliminate or modify the advisory based upon new data. The CNMI DPH should evaluate the sampling data to determine if a continued consumption advisory is warranted to protect public health. If needed, ATSDR is available to assist in review of the data.

Public Health Action Plan

12.1 Completed Actions

In April 2001 ATSDR released an Exposure Investigation Report detailing the work conducted by CNMI DPH and ATSDR to collect blood and measure serum PCB levels. Based on the levels of PCBs detected in the blood serum, it does not appear that the population tested is being exposed to PCBs at levels of health concern.

In July 2001 ATSDR released a Health Consultation for PCB contamination in land crabs and determined that the levels of contamination detected in the crab were too low to be a health hazard to people regularly eating land crab. Based on detection of PCB in land crab, CNMI DPH decided to issue a consumption advisory until further sampling could be completed.

See appendix 14.2 for a detailed time line of ATSDR activity.

12.2 Recommended Actions

Resample and analyze land crab tissue for PCB contamination. The EPA and CNMI DEQ should plan and conduct future crab sampling. With soil contamination reduced or eliminated, it is believed that future crab populations will not have the opportunity to accumulate PCB. Resampling in the future would serve as an assurance that removal of the PCB source results in a reduction in crab PCB contamination, and provide further reassurance that Tanapag land crab is safe to eat.

Evaluate future crab sampling data to determine if the need for a Tanapag land crab consumption advisory is warranted. Eliminate or modify the advisory based upon new data. The CNMI DPH should evaluate the sampling data to determine if a continued consumption advisory is warranted to protect public health. If needed, ATSDR is available to assist in review of the data.

Report Authors

Scott Sudweeks
Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Curtis Noonan
Health Investigations Branch
Division of Health Studies

Robert Johnson
Exposure Investigations and Consultations Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Aimee Tucker
Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Reviewed by:

Gary Campbell
Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Sandy Isaacs
Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Acknowledgments:

The authors would like to thank Richard Brostrom of the CNMI Department of Public Health and Michelle Rogow, Kathy Baylor, and Patrick Wilson of EPA Region 9 for their comments and assistance with providing information used in this report.

How to contact ATSDR

You may contact ATSDR staff with questions, comments, or additional information by telephone, e-mail or regular mail. ATSDR's point of contact for Saipan is Scott Sudweeks, toxicologist with the Federal Facilities Assessment Branch. You may contact ATSDR by calling the toll-free number (888) 42-ATSDR (888-422-8737). You may also contact Gwen Eng, ATSDR's Regional Representative in San Francisco, CA by calling (415) 947-4317.

Written correspondence should be directed to:

ATSDR/DHAC/FFAB
1600 Clifton Road, Mail stop E-32
Atlanta, GA 30333

Additional information about ATSDR services and the public health impacts of exposure to hazardous substances is available on the ATSDR web site at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov.

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