NYS DOH Newtown Creek Area Health Outcomes Review: Birth Outcomes and Cancer


In April, the NYS Department of Health (DOH) released a long-awaited draft report regarding the health outcomes in the communities surrounding the Newtown Creek.  The community around the creek has been keeping close watch on the creek for years, because of the potential health risks of the contaminants at the site.

Newtown Creek was declared a federal Superfund site in 2010, and is contaminated with an estimated 17-30 million gallons of spilled oil, along with pesticides, metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — chemicals the EPA notes are “potentially harmful to human health and many of them can migrate into the air.”

Residents have been extremely concerned about the potential health impacts of living and working near the creek, which is one of the most polluted waterways in the nation.  A few years ago, Newtown Creek Group created a project called “Creek Speak,” which compiles stories of people and places near the creek. Listen to these stories– they’re captivating and scary.

So, this April, when the DOH released its “Newtown Creek Area Health Outcomes Review: Birth Outcomes and Cancer,” report, community members thoroughly reviewed the document.  Many people expressed various concerns regarding the methods and conclusions contained within the report and the studies upon which the report is based.

The Newtown Creek Community Advisory Group  submitted a letter detailing their concerns about the limitations of the DOH report.  In sum, the report fails to address several important environmental risk factors which are present in the geographical area of review , and the report also makes conclusions which were not supported by the data contained within the study.  Specifically, the report concluded that there was “no evidence suggesting that cancers in the area were elevated as a result of unusual environmental exposures in the study area” — but the study had not actually measured or evaluated exposures.

Here’s some more background about Newtown Creek, the ExxonMobil oil spill, and the potential health risks of the hazards contained at the site.

For more information about other polluted sites, as well as other environmental and demographics data, take a look at NAG’s ToxiCity map.

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