Disturbing Toxic Air Results Confirmed in Paterson, NJ

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Disturbing Toxic Air Results Confirmed in Paterson, NJ

State Dissembles on Findings That 7 Air Toxics Are “Above the Health Benchmark”

Trenton — Detailed monitoring of toxic air pollution in Paterson, New Jersey has found seven dangerous compounds exceed health levels.  Yet, the state is inaccurately downplaying risks to residents, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The latest installment of the “Urban Community Air Toxics Monitoring Project, Paterson City, NJ” was completed on January 24, 2012 but only released this week.  It is a follow-up of previous monitoring which found elevated levels of p-dichlorobenzene, a toxic chemical compound found in pesticides.  The new study was to see whether these elevated levels “were a one-time occurrence or would recur periodically.”

This new study found:

“Seven air toxics (benzene, 1,3-butadiene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, chloromethane, p-dichlorobenzene, tetrachloroethylene) that were measured with the TO-15 method were above the health benchmark in Paterson and most were above the health benchmark at NJDEP’s other air toxics monitoring stations.”

The health benchmark risk “is the air concentration that would contribute a one-in-a-million increase in the risk of getting cancer over a lifetime.”

Yet in the headline of its April 24, 2012 news release, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) declared “Paterson Air Study Finds No Sign of Chemical Air Pollutant.”  DEP then stated “that the second phase of a Paterson air quality study found no evidence of elevated levels of a targeted chemical and no evidence that Paterson’s air quality differs from that of other urban communities in the state.”

“The DEP spin on these numbers is so extreme it is in danger of dropping out of orbit,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst, noting that the agency claiming “similar” air quality in other communities did not refute the risks in Paterson.  “The air in most New Jersey cities is not healthy to breathe but the numbers in Paterson are clearly higher.”

In 2010, DEP delayed and edited the previous Paterson air study.  That study found the “combined cancer risk” from exposure to toxic chemicals at the high end of what the U.S. EPA considers acceptable risk, and over 700 times higher than New Jersey’s cancer risk standard of one in a million.  When the edited report was released, however, DEP also unleashed an elaborate public relations roll-out to allay any cause for public concern.

“After spending all this money for years of studies, DEP is saying ‘don’t worry, be happy,’” Wolfe added, pointing out that the state failed to develop any enforcement or prevention steps to protect residents’ health.  “Yesterday’s release was just the latest attempt by an environmental protection agency to mask the realities that pollution is hurting our health and shortening our lifespans.”


See the misleading DEP press release

Compare the actual results
(Note Table 1 (page 8) that shows Paterson is higher than the other urban monitoring stations (with 1 exception – carbon tetrachloride in New Brunswick))

Look at previous DEP deception on same study

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