PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
NEWHALL STREET NEIGHBORHOOD
(a/k/a Bryden and Morse Streets Residential Properties, CERCLIS No. CTN000103143)
(a/k/a Rosem Site Residential Properties, CERCLIS No. CTN000103142)
HAMDEN, NEW HAVEN COUNTY, CONNECTICUTSeptember 9, 2004
- Many residents are concerned about cancer. They wonder whether cancers in their family members could be related to living around landfill waste for so many years. They also wonder whether there are more cases of cancer in the Newhall Street neighborhood than would be expected.
- Residents asked many questions about gardening and other yard work. They were concerned about whether it is safe to do yard work, such as mowing the lawn, and whether it is safe to do gardening activities, including growing and eating vegetables and fruits.
- Many residents in the Newhall Street neighborhood are grandparents. They asked whether it is safe to let their grandchildren play in their yards.
- Several residents indicated that grass would not grow in certain areas of their yards. They questioned whether this was an indication that contaminants were present in the soil and whether these bare areas should be avoided.
- Many residents are very concerned about cracks in their walls from severe settling that has occurred in their homes. They expressed concerns for their safety and the structural stability of their homes. They also were concerned about contaminants moving up from the ground into their homes through the cracks.
- Several residents asked whether there is a test to determine if their children had been exposed to lead.
- Some residents asked whether their drinking water was contaminated by the landfill waste material.
- Residents asked whether there were lasting health effects from exposure to lead as a child.
- Many residences had elevated levels of contaminants in soil, but none were high enough to warrant immediate soil removal by EPA. Some residents are concerned that their yards are not being cleaned up right away and whether it is safe to continue living in their homes.
Soil samples taken in areas where landfill waste is present indicate that lead is the primary contaminant. The main target for lead toxicity is the nervous system, both in adults and children. We have no evidence that lead causes cancer in people. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that the cause of cancer among Newhall Street residents is exposure to lead in their soil. Arsenic and PAHs have also been found at elevated levels in local soil. Arsenic is known to cause cancer in humans. Some PAHs probably cause cancer in humans, also. However, for both arsenic and PAHs, CT DPH's dose and risk calculations indicate that exposure to these contaminants is very unlikely to result in adverse health effects. In most homes tested, levels of PAHs and arsenic were consistent with natural background levels. Background means levels that would be present even if the landfill was not present.
Unfortunately, cancer is relatively common. According to the National Cancer Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health), one of every three persons will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime. To put this cancer rate into perspective for the Newhall Street neighborhood, of approximately 600 residents, 200 of the 600 residents would be expected to receive a diagnosis of cancer at some point in their lifetime. These 200 cancers would be the expected background rate, even if the landfill were not present. It is also important to keep in mind that cancer is not a single disease but rather, many different diseases. The causes and risk factors for one type of cancer are different from the causes and risk factors for another type of cancer. Environmental exposures are more likely to be suspected in situations that involve only one or two types of cancer. When there are cancers of many different types clustered in one geographic area, it is less likely that environmental causes are to blame and more likely that other causes are to blame, such as family history, diet, and age.
Yes, it is safe to do yard work and gardening in your yard, provided that you take several simple precautions. Following these precautions will help ensure that your exposure to contaminants that may be in soil in your yard will be reduced as much as possible. When working in your garden, you should limit direct contact with soil as much as possible by wearing gloves and washing your hands after gardening. If you must dig into the soil (for instance, when planting a tree or putting in a fence post), soil that you dig up from below the ground should not be left on the surface where it is accessible, especially to children. Soil that is dug up should be covered or moved to a location in the yard where it is not accessible. Avoid mowing your lawn when it is excessively dry and dusty to reduce your exposure to soil dust in the air.
For vegetable gardening, it is advisable to use a raised bed in which new topsoil is brought in. If you cannot use a raised bed, consider adding compost or new topsoil to your garden soil. This will dilute contaminant concentrations in the soil and reduce your chance of exposure. In addition, plants tend to absorb lesser amounts of chemical contaminants if the soil has neutral pH and the correct level of nutrients. The type of crops you select to grow will also influence how much chemicals are absorbed into the crops. For more details on reducing exposure to soil contaminants during gardening and other yard work, you should refer to the fact sheets "What Can I Do To Reduce My Exposure to Soil in my Yard?" and "Growing and Eating Fruits and Vegetables in the Newhall Neighborhood of Hamden." These fact sheets were prepared by the CT DPH and are included in Attachment B.
Yes, on the basis of data we have at this time, it is safe for your grandchildren to play in your yard. Children will not be exposed and will not be in any danger from contaminants that may be in the soil if they do not touch the soil on a regular and continuing basis. You can do several things to ensure that children playing in your yard do not come into contact with contaminants that may be present in soil. First, children should be discouraged from playing in bare soil. Grass, mulch, pavement, and other coverings over the soil provide a good barrier to direct contact with the soil. Maintain good grass covering on your lawn. Bare soil areas, especially beneath play equipment, should be covered with mulch, sand, clean topsoil, or any other covering. Other things you can do to limit contact with soil are to wash toys before bringing them inside the home and make sure children wash their hands after playing in the yard, especially before eating.
It is possible that the presence of very high levels of contaminants in soil could influence whether grass grows there. However, other things can affect whether grass grows (such as heavy shade) that are not related to the presence of landfill waste. It is a good idea to avoid direct contact with bare soil areas in your yard if you are not sure whether contamination is present. This is especially important for children. Encourage grass to grow in bare areas. As alternatives, bare soil areas can be covered with mulch or clean topsoil to minimize opportunities for exposure.
The presence of landfill waste materials beneath homes in the Newhall Street neighborhood has caused settling and subsidence problems in some homes. In those homes most severely affected, CT DEP had a structural engineer inspect the home and identify structural safety problems. Any structural safety problems that were identified have been addressed.
The primary contaminants that have been found in soil are lead, arsenic, and PAHs. These chemicals do not readily evaporate out of the soil. They remain bound to the soil and will not move through the soil into homes. Volatile chemicals that could evaporate out of the soil into homes have not been found in the soil in the Newhall Street neighborhood. Methane was found beneath the boiler room floor of the nearby Hamden Middle School, raising concerns about the possibility that methane was present in the landfill. Methane gas, if it were present, could move into indoor air in a home through cracks in a home's foundation. As discussed earlier in this health assessment, a methane screening program was conducted in the neighborhood and no methane or volatile chemicals attributable to waste were found.
The amount of lead in the blood can be measured to determine if exposure to lead has occurred. This test can tell if you have been recently exposed to lead. However, a blood test for lead will not tell you the source of the lead exposure. Children can be exposed to lead in various ways, including through food, drinking water, soil, and lead paint in the home. Blood tests are routinely used by pediatricians to screen young children for potential lead poisoning. It is a good idea to get a blood lead test for all children younger than 2 years (regardless of whether they live (or spend time) in the Newhall Street neighborhood). For children, blood lead levels greater than 10 µg/dL are cause for concern for possible adverse health effects. If you are concerned that your child or grandchild might have elevated levels of lead in their blood, you should contact their pediatrician or the QVHD and ask about a blood test.
Drinking water for Newhall Street neighborhood residents comes from a public water supply provided by the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority. Drinking water comes from surface water reservoirs located in either North Branford or Woodbridge. These drinking water sources are safe and are not affected by the landfill.
One of the effects that has been seen in children exposed to lead in the womb, in infancy, or in early childhood is delayed mental development and lower intelligence later in childhood. There is evidence that some of these effects may persist beyond childhood.
Yes, it is safe to continue living in your home, even if contaminants were found in the soil, but no cleanup has yet occurred. The EPA clean-up action included only those homes with levels of contaminants so high that immediate action was determined to be necessary to protect public health. If you have contamination present in soil in your yard that has not yet been cleaned up, there are things you can do to help reduce your contact with soil until cleanup does occur. The Fact Sheet included in Attachment B provides a number of suggestions about ways to reduce soil exposure. The presence of some lead and PAHs in surface soil is common, especially near older homes that have or had lead paint or are near roadways with significant car and truck traffic.
CT DPH used a screening procedure developed by ATSDR for estimating the incremental blood lead level for children and adults working or playing in lead-contaminated soil in their yards. CT DPH's calculations indicate that for homes with the highest concentrations of lead in surface soil (greater than 1,500 mg/kg), there is the potential for increases in blood lead levels in children above levels of concern for potential adverse health impacts. Fortunately, the homes with the highest lead levels have been already cleaned up by EPA, so exposures, at levels of public health concern, are no longer occurring. However, past exposures could have caused elevations in blood lead among children. Future exposures could cause elevations in blood lead levels if the remaining homes with high lead levels are left uncorrected.
With regard to arsenic and PAHs in soil, CT DPH calculated cancer and noncancer risks from exposure and has concluded that adverse health effects are unlikely. ATSDR has a categorization scheme whereby the level of public health hazard at a site is assigned to one of five conclusion categories. ATSDR conclusion categories are included as Attachment H to this report. CT DPH has concluded that, on the basis of the existing environmental data, exposure to lead in the yards with the highest levels, posed a "public health hazard" in the past (that is, before EPA performed its soil cleanup activities). On the basis of current conditions and available data, a "no apparent public health hazard" currently exists. However, this hazard category will be re-evaluated once the full nature and extent of landfill waste contamination of the Newhall Street neighborhood is determined. For example, Olin has presented a workplan for further soil and groundwater sampling in the neighborhood. When these (or other) data are available, CT DPH will evaluate the data and will modify conclusions and recommendations contained in this PHA, if necessary.
- CT DPH recommends that residents follow the suggestions contained in this Public Health Assessment and the attached fact sheets regarding ways to reduce exposure to soil in their yards. This advice includes avoiding digging or other activities that disturb soils beneath the ground surface.
- CT DPH recommends that CT DEP continue its role overseeing the process of further investigation of the nature and extent of landfill waste contaminants in the Newhall Street neighborhood and that this investigation proceed as quickly as possible so that a permanent remedy will be in place as soon as possible.
- CT DPH recommends that QVHD offer free blood lead screening in the Newhall Street neighborhood again.
- CT DPH recommends that QVHD expand the community health concerns survey originally conducted in 2001, to areas known to have landfill waste that were not included in the previous survey. CT DPH also recommends that QVHD conduct a community needs assessment focusing on information such as identifying stakeholders, collecting health education needs, and identifying health concerns.
- CT DPH recommends that QVHD, CT DEP, or Olin Corporation perform a follow-up inspection on each of the properties where CT DEP found lead above the trigger value of 1,200 mg/kg and where cleanup has not yet occurred. The inspection should focus on whether actions taken to reduce exposure (e.g., mulching bare soil) still provide an effective barrier to direct contact with soil.
Since contamination was first discovered in the Newhall Street neighborhood in early 2001, CT DPH, in conjunction with QVHD, has conducted many activities to assess health concerns in the community, provided health education to the community, and communicated potential health risks to the public.
- During May and June 2001, CT DPH and EPA met with most of the residents of the approximately 76 properties that were sampled by EPA. Soil results were provided to each resident and next steps were discussed. CT DPH answered questions about exposure and health effects. A fact sheet prepared jointly by EPA and CT DPH about ways to reduce exposure to soil was distributed to residents (see Attachment B).
- In August 2001, the QVHD offered free blood lead screening to neighborhood residents. The screening was open to anyone interested. Residents were specifically targeted who had elevated lead in soil and children residing in the home. The purpose of the screening was to identify cases of lead poisoning among neighborhood residents so that further investigation could occur to identify possible sources of lead exposure. No individuals came to the screening.
- CT DEP referred a number of homes to the QVHD for lead exposure follow-up activities. The homes referred for follow up were those homes with elevated lead in surface soil, where young children reside (or visit often), that were not scheduled to receive an EPA immediate soil removal action. QVHD follow-up actions for elevated lead in soil varied depending on the specifics of the situation. Activities they conducted included the following:
- Providing educational materials to residents about reducing exposure to lead paint in soil.
- Providing educational materials to residents about health impacts to adults and children from exposure to lead.
- Conducting home visits to observe the condition of the backyard and suggest ways to reduce soil exposure (such as mulching bare soil).
- CT DPH will continue to work with the QVHD and CT DEP to provide technical assistance regarding developing sampling plans and evaluating data.
- CT DPH will evaluate new sampling data from the neighborhood as it becomes available and will update the conclusions and recommendations contained in this Public Health Assessment, if necessary. As part of this evaluation, CT DPH will report on results of blood lead screening and the QVHD Community Concerns Survey. CT DPH will also review and update the Public Health Action Plan as needed to reflect the status of activities.
- CT DPH will evaluate new sampling data from the neighborhood as it becomes available and will update conclusions and recommendations contained in this Public Health Assessment, if needed.
- CT DPH will continue to participate in public meetings, availability sessions, and other avenues for communicating health information about the site to the public.
- CT DPH will work with the QVHD, the Town of Hamden, and CT DEP, as necessary to ensure that recommendations made in this Public Health Assessment are carried out in a reasonable time frame.
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Preparer of Health Consultation
Margaret L. Harvey, MPH
Environmental Epidemiology and Occupational Health
Connecticut Department of Public Health
ATSDR Regional Representative:
ATSDR Technical Project Officer:
Greg V. Ulirsch
Superfund Site Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry