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HEALTH CONSULTATION

LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD
LEROY, GENESEE COUNTY, NEW YORK


DISCUSSION

To evaluate the potential health risks from contaminants of concern associated with the Lehigh Valley Railroad Derailment site, the NYS DOH assessed the risks for cancer and noncancer health effects. The risks of health effects depend on contaminant concentration, exposure route, exposure frequency and duration. Additional information on the NYS DOH assessment for this site is in Appendix B.

Prior to 1991, it is not known for how long or at what concentrations people were exposed to trichloroethene in their private water supply wells. However, exposure to trichloroethene may have occurred for a period of about 20 years, from 1971 when solvent-like odors were detected in some residents' drinking water to 1991 when trichloroethene was detected in about 35 wells.

Trichloroethene has been detected in the private wells at concentrations from 0.5 to 7,200 mcg/L. Most of the contaminated wells contain this contaminant at levels between 5 and 100 mcg/L. Cis-1,2-dichloroethene, a break-down product of trichloroethene, has also been detected in a few wells adjacent to the site at concentrations from 0.5 to 38 mcg/L. Levels above 5 mcg/L exceed present NYS DOH public drinking water supply standards for each of these chemicals.

Past, potential current and future exposures to contaminants in drinking water supplies can occur via ingestion, dermal contact and inhalation from uses such as drinking, cooking, showering, bathing or other household uses. Although exposure varies depending on an individual's lifestyle, each of these exposure routes contributes to the overall daily intake of contaminants and, thus, increases the potential for chronic health effects.

Trichloroethene causes cancer in laboratory animals exposed to high levels over their lifetimes (ATSDR, 1995). Chemicals that cause cancer in laboratory animals may also increase the risk of cancer in humans who are exposed to lower levels over long periods of time. Whether these chemicals can cause cancer in humans is not known. Based on the results of animal studies and limited sampling of private wells, people drinking water over a period of 20 years containing trichloroethene at levels ranging from about 5 to 500 mcg/L could have a low increased risk of developing cancer, whereas exposure to levels greater than 5,000 mcg/L in drinking water over this same time period could be associated with a high increased cancer risk. Toxicological data are inadequate to assess the carcinogenic potential of cis-1,2-dichloroethene (ATSDR, 1994).

Trichloroethene and cis-1,2-dichloroethene also can produce a variety of non-carcinogenic effects, primarily to the liver, kidneys and nervous system. Chemicals that cause effects in humans and/or animals after high levels of exposure may also pose a risk to humans who are exposed to lower levels over long periods of time. Although the risks of non-carcinogenic effects from past exposures to trichloroethene in private drinking water supply wells are not completely understood, the existing data suggest that risks would be minimal for persons exposed to trichloroethene in drinking water at levels up to about 130 mcg/L, low at levels ranging from greater than 130 to 650 mcg/L and high for exposures to levels greater than 1,300 mcg/L. These risks of noncarcinogenic effects to persons exposed to cis-1,2-dichloroethene at levels up to 38 mcg/L would be minimal.



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