Tell New York City: Protect the Health of New Yorkers from Toxic Industrial Fires


Will you join the petition for better monitoring of toxic industrial fires? The petition can be found here.

Over the past few days, a huge 7-alarm fire has been burning out of control in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sending a plume of acrid toxic smoke into the air for miles. Residents downwind have been complaining about foul odors, sore throats, headaches, and even the insides of their homes reeking of smoke.

While NYC firefighters have been bravely battling the fire under fierce conditions, city environmental and public health agencies were slow to respond to this disaster; one of the worst fires in NYC since 9/11.

Over the past year, three major industrial fires have occurred in the increasingly populous communities of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick.  Aside from the most recent fire in Williamsburg, most of these events have gone under-reported and little to no public information was released regarding the potential health and safety hazards presented by these fires.

Historically, these communities have been overburdened by pollution from toxic waste sites, waste transfer stations, a sewage treatment plant, the Greenpoint oil spill and numerous state and federal Superfund sites. In addition, many presently operating businesses rely upon the usage or presence of specific chemicals on-site. When there is a fire on a property containing chemicals or a toxic legacy, there is an exponential increase in the likelihood of neighborhood exposure to the chemicals on-site, including chemicals which are potentially hazardous to human health.

Toxic chemicals like dioxins and furans, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and elevated particulate matter are some of the potentially hazardous chemicals that can be released in the event of a fire. Specific health effects linked to exposure to these chemicals and pollutants include asthma and other respiratory problems, headaches, cancer, birth defects, learning and developmental disabilities.  Undoubtedly the public — and the City– have a right to quantifiable information wherever possible; measuring exposure enables more effective environmental and public health responses.

Take a look at the specific demands and additional information in the petition, which we created along with several amazing neighborhood activists. Add your voice!

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