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January 2012 Archives


In every case we have the same worry:  "what is this contamination doing to the children?"  Whether the contamination is TCE in drinking water coming out of the kitchen tap and shower head; PCE in "vapor" form in the air that the family breathes every moment in the home; or arsenic in the dirt in the family's front yard where the children play, we worry most about what these chemicals are doing to the children. Because we know that these very dangerous chemicals are most dangerous of all to children. Each of The Pollution Lawyers - - Norm Berger, Mike Hayes, Ed Manzke and me (Shawn Collins) - - is a lawyer second... and a father first.  We understand that every parent's most consuming duty is to keep his/her child safe, and we feel personally the anxiety of every parent we have come to meet in our cases that gets hit with the horrible news that the home and neighborhood in which they have been raising their children is not the safe place they thought it was. So we were especially disturbed to learn recently that New York schoolchildren had been attending The Bronx New School for a 6 month period last year during which school officials knew (but the kids' parents did not) that there were high levels of cancer-causing TCE in the air that the kids were breathing at the school every day.  In fact, we wrote several blogs about it.  [see those blogs here] Enter CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and his producer, Jen Christensen.  They have been investigating contaminated schools as part of their Toxic America series, and asked if we would contribute to their TV story.  I was honored to be interviewed by Dr. Gupta's team, and wanted you to know about the story CNN ran on "CNN Presents" this past weekend.  They were kind enough to include me in the story, and you can watch it here if you'd like (my contribution is at time 3:20 of this video). We have sadly learned from years of fighting pollution and polluters that when children are in environmental harms' way, it is irresponsible adults who have put them there.  We believe that the CNN story sheds important light on a serious problem threatening many American children, and truly hope that, through this story and the work of dedicated people, our children will be much better protected against dangerous chemicals in their homes, neighborhoods and schools.


For decades, hundreds of homes in a section of Union, New York known as Endicott have been sitting above a plume of TCE and PCE contaminated groundwater.  TCE and PCE are man-made solvents historically used by corporations to strip grease and grime off metal parts.  Endicott is just south of a former IBM manufacturing facility that released thousands of gallons of these solvents into the environment.  One of these solvents, TCE, has recently been classified as a known human carcinogen by the USEPA.  Although the dangers of drinking TCE and PCE laced-water have been documented for years, less research has been devoted to the inhalation of TCE and PCE.  Endicott, with its long history of groundwater contamination, provided researchers with valuable insights into the dangers of inhaling TCE and PCE. The Endicott Study, conducted by researchers at New York's State Department of Health is one of the first studies to examine the health effects of breathing PCE and TCE contaminated air from vapor intrusion.  Vapor intrusion is the process whereby TCE and PCE in groundwater beneath homes vaporizes and moves up through the ground and into the air inside homes. Department of Health Researchers looked at health statistics from 1,440 live births to mothers living above the Endicott groundwater plume between 1978 and 2002, and compared them to health related statistics for children born throughout New York.  Their findings were alarming.  The researchers found that children born in the Endicott Study area had higher rates of adverse health issues including heart defects and low birth weight.  In addition to these findings, a previous health statistics review of the Endicott area by the Department of Health also found a significant elevation in the number of kidney and testicular cancers. This study is significant because it provides tangible support for the proposition that inhalation of TCE and PCE via vapor intrusion can be dangerous to human health.  Our hope is that the Endicott Study, which is slated for publication in Environmental Health Perspectives, will be used by state and federal environmental and public health regulators as support for tougher clean-up standards at contaminated industrial sites and to force the corporate polluters responsible for environmental contamination to respond quickly to protect homeowners and their families from the health threats posed by vapor intrusion.

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The Collins Law Firm, P.C.
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Naperville, IL 60563

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