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Parcel E Landfill Fire at Hunters Point Shipyard




The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region IX requested the Agency for Toxic Substancesand Disease Registry (ATSDR) to determine the public health impact on nearby residents of theAugust 16, 2000 fire at the Parcel E Landfill on the Former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.Environmental data is not available for the time period during the fire to determine the exact level ofcontaminants to which people may have been exposed. Air sampling data were collected 15 days afterthe fire and continue to be collected daily. The two specific questions ATSDR will address in thishealth consultation are 1) whether people could experience adverse health effects from exposure tocontaminants released from the fire and 2) whether the landfill continues to emit contaminants afterthe fire at levels likely to pose a health hazard. The questions relate to two specific periods of time: during the fire and after the fire.


  1. During the fire, components (chemical and particulate) released from the fire on August 16could have caused short-term adverse health effects in those people exposed. Health effectscould include burning, itching or watery eyes and sinuses, headache, nausea, breathingdifficulty and asthma-like symptoms. Individuals highly sensitive to the effects would beanyone with previous respiratory conditions such as asthma or emphysema, children, and theelderly. Health effects would have developed within a few days after exposure and lasted nomore than two to three weeks.

  2. After the fire, air sampling data collected 15 days after the fire was contained, but during thesmoldering and since that time do not indicate a release of chemical or physical componentslikely to result in adverse health effects. Therefore, the landfill did not continue to emitcontaminants posing a health hazard.


At 11:30 am on August 16, 2000, Hunters Point Shipyard base security notified the Federal FireDepartment located at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard of a fire burning on the Parcel E Landfill1,2. TheFederal Fire Department along with the San Francisco Fire Department used water to contain the fireafter approximately six hours2. Approximately 37 percent of the landfill area burned. The firefightersreported that the fire produced white smoke and appeared to be a normal brush fire with noappearance of chemicals burning3. The San Francisco Bureau of Fire Investigation completed aninvestigation of the fire, but could not determine the cause of the fire4. The San FranciscoDepartment of Health who tested the firefighters for exposure to radioactive material, found noradioactive release3. After the 14-acre fire was put out, hot spots continued to smolder at depths lessthan one foot beneath the ground surface of approximately 5 acres2. The Federal Fire Departmentcontinued to respond to the fire. Smoldering lasted for one month until construction/digging activitiesbegan on the landfill cap5.

Firefighters reported the color and characteristics of the smoke as being a brush fire as evident bycharred scrub brush and grasses that grow on the landfill2. However, a bystander reported seeinggreen, yellow and orange smoke6. On August 24, 2000, eight days after the fire was extinguished, afirefighter reported that a puff of green/yellow smoke was released when he shoveled somesmoldering material2. Photographic and video documentation of the fire show only white smokecoming from the burning grasses, bushes, and scrub growing on the landfill. A small pile of railroadties to be used for repair of the rail line also caught fire5.

History and Location

Hunters Point is on a long promontory in the southeastern portion of San Francisco, extendingeastward into San Francisco Bay (Figure 1). The facility is a deactivated shipyard bounded on thenorth and east by the bay, and on the south and west by the Bayview/Hunters Point community ofSan Francisco. The majority of the former shipyard, which totals 986 acres, consists of 493 acres ofrelatively flat lowlands constructed by placing fill materials along the bay's edge; 443 acres are underwater. A small portion of the land is on a moderately to steeply sloping ridge. Most of the lowlandsare covered by asphalt paving and buildings. The non-paved open areas are either sparsely vegetatedor bare soil7.

The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard was originally established as a commercial shipyard in 1870. TheNavy acquired the property in 1941, eleven days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. From 1941 to1974, the major activities were ship building, maintenance, and repair of naval ships andsubmarines8. Additionally, the facility was used for base housing, naval ordnance training exercises,radiological defense research, and research on exposure to radioactive fallout. In the mid 1950s theshipyard employed 8,500 civilians. The Navy deactivated the shipyard in 1974. In 1989, followingthe Navy's environmental investigations, the U.S. EPA placed the shipyard on its National PrioritiesList, thus, designating it a federal "Superfund" site9.

The shipyard was divided into six parcels, Parcels A-F (Figure 2) to more effectively manageenvironmental cleanup and transfer. Parcel A contained the housing structures on 88 acres. Thefinding of Suitability to Transfer documents have been signed and Parcel A is ready for transfer tothe City of San Francisco. The remaining five parcels are in various stages of investigation andcleanup. Parcel B consists of 66 acres previously used for offices, commercial buildings, warehouses,and submarine drydocks. Parcel C consists of 79 acres used for industrial purposes including shipdrydocks. Parcel D consists of 125 acres of industrial buildings, ship repair facilities, and a crane.Parcel E consists of 135 acres containing the industrial landfill. In the past, the radiologicallaboratory and bachelor enlisted housing building were located on Parcel E. Parcel F is made up of443 acres of underwater property10.

Parcel E Landfill is a 46-acre industrial landfill which operated from 1958 to 1974. The landfillreceived liquid chemical waste, asbestos, domestic wastes and refuse, dredge spoil materials,sandblast grit solvent wastes, and low-level radioactive wastes from shipboard radium dials includingelectronic equipment7.

In 1974, the shipyard was placed on industrial reserve. Soon thereafter, the Navy leased most of theshipyard to a commercial ship repair company that operated as master caretaker/tenant. In 1986,when the Navy discovered the company committed many environmental law violations for improperwaste disposal, they canceled their lease7. The company also reportedly disposed of unknown wastesin the landfill. A soil layer was put on the landfill at some time after 1974. The soil layer is notuniform in its thickness and portions of the landfill material are less than one foot below groundsurface5.

Hunters Point Naval Shipyard was approved for closure and disposition by the Base Realignment andClosure (BRAC) Commission in 1991. Operational base closure was April 1, 1994. It is currentlyunder caretaker status by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Engineering Field Division -Southwest, located in San Bruno, California. Portions of Hunters Point Naval Shipyard have alreadybeen leased to private parties. Because of the presence of hazardous materials resulting from pastshipyard operations and the operations of a commercial machine shop that had leased Hunters PointNaval Shipyard from 1976 to 1986, the EPA placed the installation on the National Priorities List in19897.

Current Land Use

Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is currently known as "The Point" to more than 250 artists who leasespace on site. It is one of the largest artist communities in the country. It is open to the public twotimes per year during "Open Studio" where artists show their work in their studios. Otherwise,access is restricted11.

The nearest off-site homes are less than 800 feet from Landfill E in the community known asBayview/Hunters Point12. The Bayview/Hunters Point district is bounded by Newhall Street, USHighway 101, Bayview Park Road and San Francisco Bay to the north and Mendell Street, EvansAvenue, Polou Avenue, and the bay to the south13. The Bayview/Hunters Point community is madeof homes within the 94124 zip code of San Francisco. Figure 3 shows the demographic breakdown ofthe community consisting of nearly 89 percent minority populations. Similar to many urban,industrial, minority communities across the U.S., Bayview/Hunters Point has higher than the nationalaverage rates of asthma, respiratory disease, breast cancer, and diabetes14,15. Therefore, they areconsidered a vulnerable population and may be more sensitive to the effects of exposure to hazardoussubstances.

Hunters Point Naval Shipyard was constructed on fill material and the majority of the base is just 10feet above sea level. The western edge of the base slopes moderately steep. The Main Gate sits approximately 40 feet above sea level (Figure 4).

After the fire, the Navy began construction of a landfill cap over slightly more than the 14 acreswhere the fire was located, but not over the entire landfill. The cap, consistent with the requirementsof the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), is designed to prevent future combustionwithin the burn area by preventing oxygen from getting into the landfill from the outside. Completionof the cap, including the planting of a vegetative cover, is anticipated to be complete at the end ofJanuary 200116. The Navy is conducting subsurface monitoring of the landfill to ensure the smolderingareas are completely extinguished. Preliminary results of the sampling indicate no smoldering withinthe landfill material. The Navy expects to complete this evaluation in February 20014.


Because data collection was not conducted at the time of the fire, ATSDR used mathematical modelsto assist us in determining probable areas where residents of Hunters Point Bayview or peopleworking at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard could have been exposed to the components of the fire.Mathematical modeling helped ATSDR determine the geographical areas where people were possiblyexposed. Models help us estimate extent of the boundaries of exposure to the fire components. Twodifferent models were used and the result combined. One model used the information about the hightemperature of the fire which produced a lifting effect, the other model used the wide lateral extent offire at ground level. (Figure 5). Additionally, ATSDR estimated the degree of exposure during themonth long smoldering event (Figure 6). ATSDR used actual meteorologic data from San FranciscoAirport, Oakland Airport, and San Francisco Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System17. Thecombination of the weather conditions during the 6-hour event combined with the high sourcetemperature (fire), source characteristics such as, the large size of the source (14 acres), and the factthis plume is based on a very short span of time, resulted in temperatures high enough to lift thesmoke plume and disperse contaminants downwind from the source and over the bay. Lowertemperatures, smaller source area, changing wind directions, and other meteorological characteristicscontributed to a a more circular pattern during the month-long smoldering. Since the actualconcentration of contaminants is not known, the values are noted in terms of percent of the maximumsource concentration.

To determine the health impact of the fire on nearby residents and workers, ATSDR relied oninformation from other landfill fires, railroad tie fires, forest, and wildland fires across the country todetermine possible components of the fire and smoke at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Additionalinformation about the fire components possibly released into the air were ascertained from HuntersPoint Shipyard surface soil, soil rinsate, and surface water analysis. We also examined meteorologicaldata about conditions at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard at the time of and following the fire. Thefollowing discussion will address two aspects: 1) potential human exposure to general combustionproducts during the fire and 2) human exposure to measured contaminants from data collected after thefire, during the smoldering event.

Information about the health of forest and wildland firefighters and people exposed to brush fireslandfill fires, and burning railroad ties in other places across the country provided information aboutthe possible health consequences that could occur in people in the Bayview Hunters Point community.

Local information about the general health status and demographic makeup of the people possiblyexposed to the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Parcel E landfill fire identifies those people who may bemore sensitive to the effects of exposure to the fire. Information about the health of the individualswithin Bayview/Hunters Point community was provided by the San Francisco Department of PublicHealth who obtained reports from local clinics, doctors offices, and hospitals before and after the fire.

Human Exposure to General Combustion Products

To address the question of whether people could experience adverse health effects from exposure tocontaminants released from the fire, ATSDR first determined the chemical and physical componentsthat were likely released from the fire. Without actual air data collected during the fire, ATSDRreviewed the available scientific literature of other landfill fires, wildfires, and prescribed burns.

Numerous groups including the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Johns HopkinsUniversity, University of Washington, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service,Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health,American Medical Association, American Industrial Hygiene Association, and various states havestudied the components of fire and smoke and the heath effects seen in firefighters over the last 12years.

The main components of the fire that pose the greatest hazard by way of inhalation are carbonmonoxide, carbon dioxide, aldehydes, (i.e., formaldehyde and acrolein) ozone, polyaromatichydrocarbons (PAH)s, benzene (discussed in the following section), and respirableparticulates18,19,20,21,22.

Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas released during incomplete combustion (i.e., fire) which primarily affects the nervous system. Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause headache, dizziness, and lightheadedness. Exposure to low to moderate levels can affect concentration, cause memory and vision problems, loss of muscle coordination, temporary reduction in lung function, bronchitis, and asthma-like symptoms18,19,20,21.

Carbon Dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas released by our bodies when we exhale. Exposure to moderate amounts of carbon dioxide can cause lightheadedness, confusion, and loss of consciousness21.

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas with a strong, pungent odor. It can form explosive mixtures with air and oxygen. As an important industrial chemical of major commercial use, formaldehyde is found throughout the environment. In solution, it has a wide range of uses: in the manufacture of resins and textiles, as a disinfectant, and as a laboratory fixative or preservative. Formaldehyde is formed during incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons22. In outdoor air it can originate from many sources such as incinerators, photochemical smog, and engine exhaust. Atmospheric levels of formaldehyde have been reported to range from less than 0.005 ppm to 0.06 ppm near industrial outlets or in areas of heavy smog23. Workers who smoke are exposed to additional levels of formaldehyde, since cigarette smoke contains as much as 40 ppm of formaldehyde by volume24. The first signs or symptoms noticed from exposure to formaldehyde at concentrations ranging from 0.1 to 5 ppm are burning of the eyes, tearing, and general irritation to the upper respiratory passages. Higher exposures (10 to 20 ppm) may produce coughing, tightening in the chest, a sense of pressure in the head, and palpitation of the heart21,25,26,27.

Acrolein is a colorless to yellow liquid which produces vapors with a foul choking odor. It is released from the burning of natural materials. Burning tobacco and other plants forms acrolein. People can also breathe acrolein when near automobiles, because burning gasoline forms acrolein, which enters the air21,22,23. Oil or coal power plants also release small amounts of acrolein. Acrolein is formed when fats are heated. Small amounts of acrolein may also be found in foods such as fried foods, cooking oils, and roasted coffee. In several large cities acrolein has been measured at levels of 0.009 ppm27. The levels in inside air can be much higher when tobacco is burning. For example, in a car with three people smoking and the windows closed, a person could breathe in 0.300 ppm. Acrolein can be smelled at levels above 0.160 ppm. So, a person would probably smell acrolein and notice eye, nose, and throat irritation before it harms the lungs27.

Ozone is a colorless gas with a sharp odor which can be smelled well below the permissible levels of exposure. At low exposure doses, an individual may experience irritation of the eyes, dryness of the nose and throat and cough. At moderate levels, headache, stomach ache and vomiting can occur. Ozone is the main component in smog that can cause breathing problems, aggravate asthma, and increases the severity and incidence of respiratory infections19,21.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of more than 100 different chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances like tobacco or charbroiled meat. They are also found in railroad ties. The primary sources of exposure to PAHs for most of the U.S. population are inhalation of the compounds in tobacco smoke, wood smoke, and ambient air, and consumption of PAHs in grilled foods. Throat irritation, cough, and respiratory difficulties were noted in factory workers exposed to moderate levels of PAHs25,26,27.

Particulates are small pieces of material released from combustion or from physical release into the air. The effect particulates have on people when breathed in depends on the size of the particles. Larger particles (greater than 10 microns) get trapped by the nasal passages. Particles greater than 5 microns travel down the airway to the bronchioles and are removed by the cilia and by coughing. Respirable particles (0.5-5 microns) can travel deeper into the alveolar region of the lungs causing irritation, bronchitis and respiratory effects. Particles smaller than 0.5 microns do not usually stay in the lungs, but instead are exhaled27. The legal airborne permissible exposure limit for workers is 50 ppm averaged over an 8-hour period27.

Public Health Implications

The likelihood of becoming sick from chemical exposure increases as the amount of chemicalexposure increases. This is determined by the length of time and the amount of chemicals to whichsomeone is exposed. Short-term exposure typically refers to contact with a contaminant by breathingit in, eating or drinking it, or touching it to your skin or eyes for a short period of time, less than oneyear. Long-term exposure typically refers to contact with a contaminant for more than one year21,22,24.Short-term health effects also called acute health effects are conditions, symptoms, or health changesthat may occur immediately or shortly after exposure and last for less than two to three weeks21,22,24.Long-term health effects also called chronic health effects are conditions, symptoms, or health changesthat can occur at some time after exposure and can last for months or years. Short term health effectscan occur from exposure to high or low amounts of chemical contaminants. Short term health effectscan also occur from short- or long-term exposures. Most long term health effects however, result fromrepeated exposures to a chemical that occur over and over again21.

Health information collected all over the county show that firefighters may experience both reversible,short-term health effects, such as eye and respiratory tract irritation and long-term adverse healtheffects, such as decreased lung function, and increased incidence of respiratory illness28,29,30. Long-term adverse health effects have been seen in a small portion of firefighters who were exposed to firecomponents on a daily basis for more than one year30,31,32. Data from studies shows that between oneand 10% of firefighters have exposures to fire and smoke components which exceed recommendedTime Weighted Average for a normal 8-hour day/ 40 hour workweek. Less than 5% of these smokeexposures exceed Occupational Saftey and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limitswhich are less stringent than the recommended limits, but which are legally applicable to federalagencies32. The exposures of firefighters to smoke and fire components have been identified by boththe respired air from the lungs of firefighters and from actual air samples collected by monitors wornon the neck and chest of firefighters. Reports of studies conducted since 1988 show consistent results.In several studies, firefighters, who were given questionnaires after days of exposure, reportedheadaches, cough, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and wheezing18,19,30,31.

ATSDR spoke with county nurses in each of three counties from Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming toprovide information about health problems reported in the general population affected by the fires thispast summer. Health warnings to limit time outside were distributed by newspaper, television, andradio and posted in grocery stores and post offices. Most of the fire and smoke related cases reportedeye, nose, and throat irritation that subsided within a few hours after exposures stopped. None of thecounty nurses reported adverse pregnancy or birth outcomes related to the fire and smoke. Most phonecalls the counties received were not related to health, but to how to get the smell of smoke out of thefurniture and carpeting33-38.

Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Parcel E Landfill Fire

August 16, 2000 was an unusually hot summer day in San Francisco with temperatures reaching 93degrees6. Many homes in the area do not have air conditioning because summers in San Francisco aretypically mild. So it is likely that many homes had their windows open, which is probably the waymost people were exposed to the release of components from the Parcel E fire.

The fire at the Hunters Point Shipyard Parcel E Landfill lasted for six hours with small amounts ofrelease occurring during the smoldering, which lasted for one month5. Wind rose informationcollected on Parcel B of the facility corresponds with that collected at the San Francisco Airport,Oakland Airport, and San Francisco Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System. All data show thatfor the six hour period during the fire air flow direction was toward the bay and away from theBayview Hunters Point Community17. Wind rose information provides predominant wind directionover a specific period of time. In this case, the wind rose information shows that the wind may haveblown fire components away from citizens. However, topography, and other factors play a part inwhether the fire components could have reached inland, up wind areas. Citizens have reported that thesmoke swirled up toward the community. Therefore, exposure to fire and smoke components werepossible.

Information about the duration of the Hunters Point Shipyard Parcel E landfill fire and meteorologicaldata suggest that the contaminant levels of the Parcel E Landfill fire to which people were exposedwould be less than typical exposures to firefighters across the country. The duration of the Parcel Elandfill fire was less than one day and reportedly estimated to be six hours and covered an area of 14acres as compared to the wildland fires we researched which last weeks to months and envelopmillions of acres. The information from the wildland fires of Montana, Wyoming, Washington,California, Idaho, and Oregon, show that even after months of exposure of a community to visiblesmoke, reversible short-term health effects were reported18-20,23,24,27-29. This information provides a"worst case" scenario as to the possible chemicals and physical components released and also theworst possible health effects that might occur in the Bayview/Hunters Point community.

Evaluation of the Hunters Point Parcel E Landfill information, such as the duration of the fire andsmoldering events, the land area involved, the wind direction, wind speed, ambient air temperatureand photographic information of the fire indicate that adverse health effects, such as eye andrespiratory irritation are possible. This also suggests that pre-existing conditions such as asthma andemphysema, could be exacerbated by the fire and smoke components. Children with asthma, adultasthmatics, and elderly adults with respiratory conditions are more highly sensitive to poor air quality.The available study information strongly indicates that long term adverse health effects such asinsufficient tissue oxygenation, increase risk of cancer, and irreversible adverse health effects areunlikely. Additionally, adverse effects on the unborn children of pregnant women exposed to the fireand smoldering events are also unlikely.

Human Exposure to Measured Contaminants

One air sample was collected from the smoldering area on September 1, 2000. Continuous 24-hourper day air sampling began September 8, 2000 at six air monitoring stations surrounding Parcel ELandfill. Air samples collected after the fire was contained and during the smoldering events werefully analyzed to adequately characterize the fire and smoke components. Analysis includedparticulates, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), semivolatile organic compounds, volatileorganic compounds, metals, dioxin and furans, chlorine and hydrogen chloride, phosgene, andradioactivity. The analysis allowed for determination as to whether the fire extended only to thesurface brush or also included toxic components of the landfill. Even though the actual smoke fromthe active fire was not sampled, sufficient information is available about the deposition ofcontaminants onto the soil, surface water, and those extracted from the soil to provide a scientificsignificant representation of the components of the fire. Additionally, air sampling informationcollected indicated the contaminant levels to which people are currently exposed.

Since sampling began on August 31, 2000, no chemicals have been detected at the Parcel E landfill atlevels likely to result in adverse health effects in the surrounding Bayview/Hunters Point community.Results of all the air samples collected are presented by the Navy and posted on their web site ATSDR reviewed the data collected atthe Parcel E air monitoring stations since sampling began in August 2000. Air monitoring stationshave detected low levels of PCBs (Aroclor 1260), the pesticide endrin, dioxin/furans, benzene, bis-2-ethlyhexyl phthalate, chloroform, trimethylbenzene, and manganese in one or more samples from theParcel E stations39. Table 1 details the summary of sampling data and ATSDR's evaluation.

Manganese and benzene are the two chemicals which have exceeded ambient air quality standards onseveral different days since sampling began 15 days after the fire was contained40. No other chemicalwas above air quality standards and all are well below levels likely to cause adverse health effects.

ATSDR reviewed the toxicological information about these chemicals to determine if the levelscurrently detected are likely to result in adverse heath effects in both the general population and inthose people who may be hypersensitive or predisposed to respiratory complications.

In our evaluation of the likelihood of people in the Hunters Point Bayview Community to experience adverse health effects, ATSDR made assumptions that would tend to overestimate the level of hazard and level of exposure. The rationale for doing this is because there are no data that documents the actual chemicals to which people were exposed during the fire. This overestimation errs on the side of prudent public health practice while still based on sound scientific evidence. In this evaluation, ATSDR assumed that chemical and particulates released from the fire at Parcel E Landfill included similar components as those released from other fires including landfill fires, railroad tie fires, vegetative fires, wildland fires, and forest fires. Additionally, ATSDR assumed that smoke was coming into the community. Information collected from meteorological stations, photographs, and video of the actual fire show smoke blowing away from community. Our assumptions would tend to overestimate the amount of chemicals and particulates to which people would actually be exposed. Since the time of the fire was 11:30 am to approximately 5:30 pm, ATSDR assumed that children and adults would be outside of their homes. This assumption would also tend toward a worst case exposure.

ATSDR has evaluated the likelihood of exposures here to cause adverse health effects in children and adults breathing releases from the Parcel E Landfill. Benzene was detected in outdoor air at all sampling stations surround Parcel E landfill. The maximum benzene level detected was 0.00143 ppm (4.63 ug/m3). A review of the available scientific literature indicates that levels of benzene 30 times higher than those detected here have not been shown to cause adverse health effects. The No Observed Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL) for benzene was determined to be 0.031 ppm a level 34 times higher than that detected at the landfill41. A newly released study, which sampled "prefueling" breath levels of benzene that represent benzene exposures while driving in your car, showed average levels of 0.003 ppm and ranged from less than 0.001 - 0.022 ppm42. Levels (700-3,000 ppm) can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors, confusion, and unconsciousness. In most cases, people will stop feeling these effects when they stop being exposed and begin to breathe fresh air44-46.

During the 1990s, several large-scale studies of benzene concentrations in air, food, and blood haveadded to our knowledge of its widespread presence in the environment. The new studies haveconfirmed earlier findings of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studies and otherlarge-scale studies in Germany and the Netherlands about the levels of human exposure and majorsources. The new studies found that indoor concentrations were generally higher than outdoorconcentrations. Major sources of exposure continue to be active and passive smoking, auto exhaust,and driving or riding in automobiles41.

Manganese is a natural component in the environment, present at low levels in water, air, soil, and food. In drinking water, natural levels are usually about 0.004 ppm. In air, levels are usually about 0.087 ppm. Levels in soil range from 40 to 900 ppm47,48. Manganese is also a normal component of living things, including both plants and animals, so manganese is present in foods. For nearly all people, food is the main source of manganese, and usual daily intakes range from about 2,000 to 9,000 ppm. The exact amount taken in depends on a person's diet47,48.

The maximum level of manganese detected from air monitoring stations after the fire was containedwas 0.0001 ppm (0.294 ug/m3). This level is 400 times lower than the Lowest Observed AdverseEffect Level of 0.04 ppm49 . Therefore, current levels of manganese are not likely to result in adverse health effects.


If I smelled smoke, am I going to have health problems as a result?

Not necessarily. Being able to smell smoke is based on its odor threshold. A chemical's odorthreshold is the lowest concentration of that chemical in air that people can smell. Theconcentration of many chemicals that emit detectable odors is much lower (often 10 to 1000 timeslower) than the amount of chemical likely to cause health problems. Even though people differ,some health conditions such as asthma may be triggered by certain odors even though theconcentration of chemical is much lower than could cause a toxic effect.

Without sampling data collected during the fire, how do you know the fire was not a "toxic fire?"

ATSDR assumed that the fire burned "toxic" or harmful materials such as railroad ties as well assawdust, brush, and grasses. Because there was not sampling data collected during the fire, we usedexisting information from other landfill fires, railroad tie fires, and forest fires to predict whetherpeople were likely to experience health problems from breathing the components released by theHunters Point Shipyard Parcel E Landfill fire. Although the fire would have been "toxic," theeffects would be of short duration.

How do you know the health problems of people in the Bayview Hunters Point community areshort-term?

The reason we believe that health effects will be short-term is based on ATSDR's review of thescientific literature including medical reports and other information which detail 1) the chemicalsthat could have been released by the fire 2) the likely health effects from those chemicals, and 3)the health effects seen in firefighters and in communities near various types of fires. The fireinformation we reviewed included details about landfill fires, railroad tie fires, and forest fires.Reports of human exposure to fire components under similar circumstances lasting less than oneyear showed only short-term health effects. No long-term health effects were reported. Based onthe duration and extent of the fire, distance of the fire from the community, and most frequent winddirection, our conclusion is that people breathing the components released by the Hunters PointShipyard Parcel E Landfill fire may have experienced health problems such as burning, itching orwatery eyes and sinuses, headache, nausea, breathing difficulty, and asthma-like symptoms whichcould have begun within a few days after exposure and lasted no more than two to three weeks.

Is there a fire currently burning underground in the Parcel E landfill?

Air monitoring stations, which have been collecting data for 24 hours a day since September 8,2000, have not detected any of the components which would be released from an underground fire.On September 22, 2000, the Navy made a thermal image of the area, which did not show any hotspots on the surface of the burned area. As a final measure to ensure that there are no remainingsubsurface smoldering areas, the Navy is conducting subsurface monitoring of temperature andfixed gas concentrations. Preliminary results indicate that there is no continued subsurfacesmoldering. A final report is expected by March 2001.

Have there been landfill fires at Hunters Point Shipyard before?

The Navy told ATSDR that there have not been any other fires on the Parcel E landfill in the past.However, there have been fires in other areas of the Hunters Point Shipyard such as grass fires,empty metal fuel tanks, and fires in buildings. None of the previous fires was this large andtherefore, they should not have long-term effects to the off-site community. However, we arerecommending that future air releases be reported to the community the same day.

If the current chemical contaminant levels from Parcel E are safe, why does the Bayview/HuntersPoint community have so many health problems?

Numerous city, state, and federal health care groups are working to determine why theBayview/Hunters Point community has so many health problems, but it is not known at this time. Itis a widely reported fact that the Bayview/Hunters Point community has higher than averageincidence of asthma, respiratory disease, diabetes, lung cancer and other health problems.However, the rates here are similar to other urban communities with numerous industries andsimilar economic and demographic make-up. No one factor has been shown to be the cause, butcould be a combination of factors such as exposure to industrial pollutants, access to medical care,lifestyle and dietary factors.

How can the situation change so that in the future the community is informed of similar events?

The Navy along with community members, U.S. EPA, and local agencies, began meetingapproximately every three weeks to discuss and develop notification procedures for the communityin case of future events.

For More Information

Your questions and comments are important to ATSDR and should be directed to Bill Nelson,ATSDR Regional Representative, at 415-744-2194. You can also contact our Atlanta office, tollfree, at 1-888-42-ATSDR (1-888-422-8737). Please refer to Hunters Point when asking to speakwith a health assessor in the Division of Health Assessment and Consultation.


  1. Components (chemical and physical) released from the fire on August 16 could have causedshort-term adverse health effects in those people exposed. Health effects could includeburning, itching or watery eyes and sinuses, headache, nausea, breathing difficulty andasthma-like symptoms. Individuals highly sensitive to the effects would be anyone withprevious respiratory conditions such as asthma or emphysema, children, and the elderly.Health effects would be of short duration: developing within a few days of exposure andlasting no more than two or three weeks after exposure stopped. The Bayview/Hunters Pointcommunity already has a high incidence of respiratory diseases.

  2. Long-term health effects such as decreased lung function, increase in cancer risk, andinsufficient tissue oxygenation are unlikely to be seen in people who were exposed tocomponents released from the Parcel E landfill fire because the length of time people wouldhave been exposed was short and the concentrations were low. Additionally, the unbornchildren of pregnant women who were exposed are unlikely to experience any adversehealth effects as a result of their exposure.

  3. Air sampling data collected 15 days after the fire was extinguished, but during thesmoldering and since that time do not indicate a release of chemical or physical componentslikely to result in adverse health effects.


  1. If people are experiencing respiratory problems, they should seek the attention of theirpersonal medical care provider.

  2. Because the community near the boundary of Hunters Point Shipyard has higher thanaverage rates of respiratory disease, the Navy should take extra precautionary measures toreduce particulates and chemicals that may be stirred up or released during cleanup activitieson base. ATSDR also recommends that the Navy conduct air monitoring during plannedevents which are likely to release particulates or chemicals into the air.

  3. As a way of reducing exposures to this vulnerable population, ATSDR recommends that theNavy notify the Bayview/Hunters Point community of any planned or unplanned air releasesthat have the potential to move off base.


Carole Hossom, Senior Environmental Health Scientist
Department of Defense Section B
Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Mapping and Modeling

Kevin Liske
Geographical Information System Analyst
Performance Evaluation and Records Information Services Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Howard Schmidt
Atmospheric Modeler/Meteorologist
Lockheed Martin / REAC

Greg Zarus
Exposure Investigations Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Reviewers of the Report

Diane Jackson
Chief, Defense Facilities Section B
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Sandra Isaacs
Chief, Federal Facilities Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation


  1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Record of Communicationwith Federal Fire Department. November 15, 2000.

  2. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest Division. Hunters Point Shipyard, ParcelE Landfill Fire Notification, Factsheet No. 1. September 8, 2000.

  3. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Record of Communication withRichard Lee, San Francisco Department of Public Health. December 21, 2000.

  4. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Record of Communication withRichard Mach SWDIV, Naval Facilities Engineering Command. January 16, 2001.

  5. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Record of Communication withRichard Mach SWDIV, Naval Facilities Engineering Command. November 3, 2000.

  6. American Broadcast Corporation Affiliate: San Francisco Channel 7 Interview with LynneBrown. September 12, 2000.

  7. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Public Health Assessment forTreasure Island Naval Station, Hunters Point Annex San Francisco, California September 30,1994.

  8. Military Analysis Network, Hunters Point, San Francisco Naval Shipyard, November 9, 2000.

  9. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest Division. Hunters Point Shipyard, Environmental Cleanup Newsletter, September 2000.

  10. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest Division. Hunters Point Shipyard, Environmental Cleanup Newsletter, June 2000.

  11. The Bay Area Regional Marketing Partnership, Bay Area First, Bay Area Economic Forum, 200 Pine Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94104, November 7, 2000.

  12. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Geographical Information System. January 30, 2001.

  13. Adam G. San Francisco Examiner, Boundaries of Bayview/Hunters Point Community. Undated. Obtained from Cindy Hu, San Francisco Information Bureau. November 3, 2000.

  14. Bermudez R. Department of Public Health Bay View/Hunters Point Street Map (Hazardous materials containing sites). May 24, 1996.

  15. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Record of Communication with Dr. Cynthia Selmar, San Francisco Department of Public Health. November 7, 2000.

  16. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest Division, Weekly Project Updates Parcel E Landfill Cap. November 18, 2000.

  17. San Francisco Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (SFPORTS)/ San Francisco Bay Wind Patterns. December 20, 2000.

  18. Ottmar RD, Reinhardt TE. Fireline Workers: Assessment of Smoke Exposure During Prescribed Burns. 1989.

  19. Reinhardt TE, Ottmar RD, Hallett MJ. Guide to Monitoring Smoke Exposure of Wildland Firefighters. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, PNW-GTR-448, March 1999.

  20. Sharkey, Brian (Editor). Health Hazards of Smoke: Recommendations of the Concsensus Conference April 1997. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Technology and Development Program, 9751-2836-MTDC, October 1997.

  21. New Jersey Hazardous Substance Fact Sheets (CCINFO database) (RRC Library Guide)

  22. Reinhardt TE, Ottmar RD. Smoke Exposures at Western Wildfires. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, PNW-RP-525, May 2000.

  23. Reinhardt TE, Ottmar RD, Hanneman AJ Smoke Exposure Among Firefighters at Prescribed Burns in the Pacific Northwest. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, PNW-RP-526, July 2000.

  24. Sharkey, Bryon. (editor). Health Hazards of Smoke. Newsletter published quarterly. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Missoula Technology and Development Center, Fort Missoula Building No. 1, Missoula, MT 59801. Vol. 1 - Summer 1990, Vol. 2 - Winter 1991, Vol. 3 - Summer/Fall 1991, Vol. 4 - Winter/ Spring 1992, Vol. 5 - Fall 1992, Vol. 6 - Spring 1993, Vol. 7 - Winter/Fall 1993, Vol. 8 - Spring 1994, Vol. 9 - Fall 1994, Vol. 10 - Spring 1995, Vol. 11 - Fall 1995, Vol. 12 - Spring 1996.

  25. National Institutes for Occupatioal Safety and Health. Formaldehyde. November 21, 2000.

  26. Technology & Development Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Understanding the Health Hazards of Smoke. 9951-2801-MTDC.1999.

  27. Reinhardt TE, Hanneman A, Ottmar RD. Smoke Exposure at Prescribed Burns: Final Report. Prepared for U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Experiment Station and University of Washington, Department of Environmental Health. Radian Corporation July 21, 1994.

  28. Reinhardt TE, Ottmar RD. Smoke Exposure Among Wildland Firefighters: A Review and Discussion of the Current Literature. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, PNW-GTR-373, February 1997.

  29. Reinhardt TE, Black J, Ottmar RD. Smoke Exposure at Pacific Northwest Wildfires. Prepared for U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Experiment Station. Radian Corporation May 31, 1995.

  30. Reinhardt TE. Monitoring Firefighter Exposure to Air Toxins at Prescribed Burns of Forest and Range Biomass. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, PNW-RP-441, October 1991.

  31. Sandberg DV. National Strategic Plan: Modeling and data systems for wildland fire and air quality. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, PNW-GTR-450, February 1999.

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  33. Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Record of Communication with Beverly Stallings, Beaverhead County Nurse, Montana November 17, 2000.

  34. Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Record of Communication with Lincoln County Nurse, Montana November 17, 2000.

  35. Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Record of Communication with Missoula County Nurse, Montana November 17, 2000.

  36. Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Record of Communication with Bannock County Nurse, Idaho November 17, 2000.

  37. Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Record of Communication with Kootenai County Nurse, Idaho November 17, 2000.

  38. Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Record of Communication with Carbon and Crook County Nurses, Wyoming November 17, 2000.

  39. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest Division, Ambient Air Monitoring Plan at Parcel E Hunters Point Shipyard, Undated (September 2000).

  40. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest Division, Ambient Air Monitoring Data from August 31 through December 10, 2000.

  41. Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Toxicological Profile for Benzene, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, August 1995.

  42. Egeghy PP, Rogelio TV, Rappaport SM. Environmental and biological monitoring of benzene during self-service automobile refueling. Environmental Health Perspectives December 2000; 108 (12).

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  47. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Health Effects Notebook for Hazardous Air Pollutants, EPA-452/D-95-00, PB95-503579, December 1994.

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American Lung Association. African-Americans and Lung Disease. September 2000.

Haddock, Sharon, Deseret News. Fire at metal shop near Springville burns railroad ties and old tires. August 1998.

Huff MH, Ottmar RD. Historical and Current Forest Landscapes in Eastern Oregon and Washington. Part II: Linking Vegetation Characteristics to Potential Fire Behavior and Related Smoke Production. Vol. III: Assessment, Eastside Forest Ecosystem Health Assessment. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, PNW-GTR-335, October 1995.

Missoula Technology & Development Center. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Wildland Firefighter: Health and Safety Report 2000; 1:1.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Railroad Ties And Utility Poles Technical Bulletin. Solid Waste Management Program. October 26, 2000.

National Institutes of Health, Asthma and its environmental triggers. December 14, 2000.

Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest Division. Radiation Facts About Hunters Point Shipyard, June 2000.

Ottmar RD, Reinhardt TE, Castilla C, Sandberg DV, Seyfarth J. Rural Community Exposure to Smoke From Biomass Burning in Rondonia, Brazil. Proceedings, 13th Fire and Forest Meteorology Conference, Lorne, Australia 1996, International Assoc. Wildland Fire, Moran, WY, October 27-31, 1996.

Ottmar RD. Prescribed Fire Versus Wildfire: What are the tradeoffs? Two Case Examples. Northwest Fire Council, Annual Meeting November 16-18, 1992.

Rappaport SM. Assessment of long-term exposures to toxic substances in air. Ann Occup Hyg 1991; 35(1):61-121.

Walker L.Colorado State University Cooperative Extension agricultural engineer and research associate, chemical and bioresource engineering. Burning Wood Better - Back to HearthNet Specific Information Area September 1992.

Table 1.

Summary of Parcel E Landfill Air Monitoring Data and ATSDR's Evaluation
Chemical Component Maximum Concentration (ug/m3) Minimum Concentration (ug/m3) Mean Concentration (ug/m3) Modeled Exposure Concentration Comparison Concentration (ug/m3) ATSDR Hazard Evaluation
1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene 77.2 2.56 39.88 0.772 6.2 No Hazard
1,3,5-Trimethylbenzene 13.7 13.7 13.7 0.137 6.2 No Hazard
Acenaphthene 0.00512 0.00301 0.004065 0.0000512 220 No Hazard
Anthracene 0.00563 0.003 0.004315 0.0000563 1100 No Hazard
Aroclor 1260 (PCB) 0.0432 0.0121 0.0136 0.000432 0.0031 No Hazard
Benzene 4.63 0.415 1.17 0.0463 0.22 No Hazard
Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate 0.744 0.00355 0.024 0.00744 0.45 No Hazard
Cobalt 0.012 0.012 0.012 0.00012 220 No Hazard
Carbon Tetrachloride 0.629 0.0629 0.34595 0.00629 0.12 No Hazard
Chloroform 1.22 1.17 1.195 0.0122 0.077 No Hazard
Copper 0.442 0.0184 0.2302 0.00442 150 No Hazard
Dibenzofuran 0.0534 0.00385 0.028625 0.000534 15 No Hazard
Dichlorodifluoromethane 2.72 1.09 1.905 0.0272 180 No Hazard
Diethylphthalate 0.0586 0.00406 0.03133 0.000586 2900 No Hazard
Di-N-Butylphthalate 0.0729 0.00696 0.03993 0.000729 370 No Hazard
Endrin 0.583 0.0012 0.2921 0.00583 1.1 No Hazard
Ethylbenzene 1.78 0.478 1.129 0.0178 1100 No Hazard
Fluoranthene 0.00799 0.00307 0.00553 0.0000799 150 No Hazard
Fluorene 0.00907 0.0062 0.007635 0.0000907 150 No Hazard
Lead 0.216 0.029 0.1225 0.00216 1.5 No Hazard
Manganese 0.294 0.05 0.172 0.00294 0.052 No Hazard
Methylene Chloride 1.84 1.74 1.79 0.0184 3.8 No Hazard
Phenanthrene 0.0415 0.00321 0.022355 0.000415 54 No Hazard
Styrene 5.92 0.469 3.1945 0.0592 1000 No Hazard
Tetrachloroethene 0.814 0.678 0.746 0.00814 0.031 No Hazard
Toluene 9.31 0.754 5.032 0.0931 420 No Hazard
Trichlorofluoromethane 2.47 1.12 1.795 0.0247 730 No Hazard
Xylene, Total (a) 26.5 0.868 13.684 0.265 7300 No Hazard

This table lists chemicals that have been detected at some time during sampling. Modeled Exposure Concentrations are aircontaminant concentrations (not dose) to which people could be exposed and are based on mathematical model results that showless than 1% of maximum concentrations that would be expected to be released outside the base into the community. ComparisonConcentrations are EPA's Region III Risk Based Concentration screening values. For lead, the Californica State Action Level.The complete list of chemicals analyzed but not detected are not included in this table. Complete data is contained at the Navy'sweb site at


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