EPA’s Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) disappoints again.
The EPA’s Math Doesn’t Add Up
The EPA’s Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA), published February 10, 2021, concluded that the communities’ chronic exposure to heavy metal toxins from Teck smelter’s air emissions, and the historical accumulation caused by their decades of disposing slag directly into the Columbia River, has nothing to do with the multiple health clusters of similar auto immune diseases that have plagued the community of Northport for three generations.
34% of past and present Northport, WA residents have been diagnosed with, or died from similar autoimmune diseases.
This is a baffling, all be it not surprising, conclusion. Considering the EPA conducted NO NEW air monitoring as a part of their, “in-depth” HHRA. They simply reviewed the air monitoring done in the area by Ecology between 1992-1996, and the monitoring done by Teck from 1997 – 2005.
The results of those air monitoring studies showed levels of arsenic and cadmium to be well above safety standards. Yet, the EPA concluded in their HHRA “Exposure to airborne contaminants from the Teck smelter do not pose a substantial risk to residents….”
How could they possibly come to that conclusion when the old data they “reviewed” showed the Risk Based Specific Concentration Levels (RSC) of arsenic amd cadmium were considered high enough to pose a risk to human health. Arsenic was found to be 200 times higher than national standards.
Based on this data how could they have possibly conducted an accurate HHRA without conducting any new air monitoring of the area during their HHRA?
They also never took into account all the past and current residents who continue to be diagnosed with the same group of illnesses. I was contacted by four residents just last month who had recently been diagnosed with Crohn’s or colitis – and another resident who recently had a menigenoma removed from her brain.
From a Statistical Perspective
Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease:
- Annually 2–14 people out of 100,000 are diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s in the United States – or: .006%
- 54 past and present Northport residents, spanning 3 generations, have been diagnosed with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis – or: 7%
- Of the CURRENT 315 residents 19 people have been diagnosed – or: 6%
- In the past four months I have been contacted by four more residents who have been diagnosed with either colitis or Crohn’s.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS):
- Annually approx. 10,400 people are diagnosed with MS in the United States – or: .003%.
- 32 past and present Northport residents, spanning 3 generations, have been diagnosed with MS – or: 4%
- Annually approx. 23,880 people are diagnosed with Brain Tumors in the United States – or: .007%
- 19 past and present Northport residents, spanning 3 generations, have been diagnosed with/or died from a brain tumor – or: 1.7%
It is important to note here, these are just a small number of the health issues, mostly auto-immune related, that plague our community.
- 1921–2005: Teck released 63,578 tons of heavy metal toxins (arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead) through their air emissions.
- 1906–1995: Teck released 58,611,000 tons of slag into the Columbia river, the equivalent of a dump truck emptying 19 tons of slag every hour, every day, for 60 years.
- 1994–1997: Teck’s discharges of arsenic, cadmium and lead equal MORE than the discharges of ALL the lead and zinc smelters COMBINED through-out the United States.
- This does not include the hundreds of “accidental spills”that are still occurring. For Teck Smelter’s Timeline of Pollution read; A Century of Evidence
EPA’s Human Health Risk Assessment
I am no scientist, but doesn’t it seem logical their is an obvious connection to the communities chronic exposure to multiple heavy metal toxins, through multiple routes of exposure and the amount of health issues found in so many past and present Northport resident.
When Dr. Josh Korzenik, the Director of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center at Brigham hospital conducted a survey of our community in 2012 he stated the number of residents diagnosed with Crohn’s or colitis was one of the largest health clusters of IBD he had ever seen. He said it was 10-15 times what they would expect to see in a population the size of Northport.
Our situation presents an opportunity to conduct one of the most ground breaking epidemiological studies ever done. Not only could more be learned about what causes, or triggers, these auto-immune diseases, the current “safety” levels of exposure to specific heavy metal toxins could be reevaluated and updated.
What is so difficult about conducting some epidemiological studies is the inability to track down accurate information, because too much time has passed. Well, we have accurate environmental studies of the air, soil, wildlife, aquatic life spanning 87 years. We have three generations of past and present Northport residents willing to participate in providing their health records, and being tested for levels of toxins currently in their bodies.
Chronic exposure to these specific heavy metal toxins, as stated in EPA’s own scientific studies, is infinitely more dangerous. Our bodies are not only exposed to one heavy metal toxin, but to multiple toxins, through multiple routes of exposure, over long periods of time. These toxins accumulate in your body, long term accumulation of heavy metals in the body may result in slowing the progression of physical, muscular and neurological degenerative processes that cause diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s, brain tumors, and a slew of other autoimmune diseases. The heavy metals most commonly associated with poisoning of humans are lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium.
Unfortunately, the HHRA conducted by the EPA is, simply put, dangerously flawed. There really is no other explanation as to how they could, in good faith, conclude that the residents of Northport are not in any danger.
I am willing to bet if you live, or grew up in Northport, either you, a friend, a family member, or several family members have been, or have recently been diagnosed with some of these health issues.