STATEN ISLAND, NY – September 14, 2020 – According to an online news report published on CNN.com, nineteen years after the 9/11 attack, Staten Island residents fear Staten Island’s Fresh Kills inactive landfill contains 9/11 Ground Zero debris is causing cancer rates to spike in the borough.
In March 2001, Staten Island residents successfully lobbied the closure of the Staten Island’s Fresh Kills inactive landfill. However, Governor George Pataki reopened the landfill to dump Ground Zero debris following the September 11 attacks. Cleanup crews were authorized to dump approximately 1.8 million tons of the Ground Zero debris. The Ground Zero debris was later found to contain some toxic substances. Now, some Staten Islanders are worried the inactive landfill with its toxic contents from the 9/11 attack may be contributing to a significant increase in the cancer rates across Staten Island.
A 32-year-old woman claims that her family has no family history of cancer. However, she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and she worries her cancer was caused by living near the inactive Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island.
In 2017, city health department officials conducted a study to examine a potential link between an uptick in cancer rates with living near the Fresh Kills landfill. A recent report examined the incidence rates of 17 different types of cancers in the Fresh Kills area and compared those rates to the rates of both New York City and the rest of Staten Island. The report noted that between 1995 and 2015, adult residents living on Staten Island were diagnosed with certain cancers at “slightly or moderately higher rates” than those who lived in other New York City boroughs. The adult residents who lived around the Fresh Kills landfill, at the same time, suffered “significant elevations” in five types of cancer when the rates were compared to adult residents who lived in other areas of Staten Island. These five cancers included breast, bladder, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney, and thyroid. The report stated that there were likely other contributing factors for the increased cancer rates around the landfill since the rates were not consistently increasing over time. The report asserted that “plausible” reasons for the increase in cancers such as thyroid and bladder cancer are most likely due to the higher number of cigarette smokers on Staten Island. These two cancers have been linked to other landfills in the past. However, the report states that the Fresh Kills landfill has been inactive for a substantial amount of time, and therefore, there could not be a cancer connection.
The increased cancer rates have been a long source of contention between Staten Island residents and the city of New York.
In January, New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene produced a report that investigated the possible health effects of the Fresh Kills landfill. The inactive landfill was reopened within hours of the World Trade Center Tower One collapse to receive debris, and the former landfill was converted into a forensic site
A 25-year-old man witnessed the trucks from “Ground Zero” driving through his neighborhood as a child. He said that these trucks “unloaded tons of wreckage” at the Fresh Kills landfill. For residents like 25-year-old man, the toxic substances within the “Ground Zero” debris is the primary cause of his communities’ increased cancer rates. However, researchers claim that they have not been able to find evidence linking the landfill to causing an increase in cancer rates in those communities. New York City officials continue to suggest other factors, such as cancer over-screening and tobacco usage as other potential causes for the increased rates of cancer in the landfill area.
Philip Landrigan, who heads up Boston College’s Global Public Health Program and Global Pollution Observatory and has investigated the health consequences of 9/11 debris exposure on cleanup workers, said, “The community is right to be concerned.” Mr. Landrigan and his team of investigators stated that they discovered toxic substances such as asbestos, glass fibers, pesticides, and lead in floating in the air and in dust samples collected from Ground Zero. Mr. Landrigan stated that it is an “undeniable fact that there are toxic and cancer-causing materials in the landfill, and the landfill must be meticulously studied for the decades to come.”
New York State officials conducted their own study in the cancer rates of adult residents of Staten Island, and the health officials published their own study in 2019. The authors in the State of New York study noted that the cancer rate was on Staten Island was “17% higher when compared to the rest of the city,” and “3% higher” when compared to other parts of the state. The report also discovered that the number of thyroid cancer rates on Staten Island was almost 70% higher than in New York City. According to the state’s researchers, they were unable to identify environmental exposures, and they suggested that the results became skewed due to the higher rates of thyroid cancer screenings on Staten Island versus the other parts of the city and state.
A 25-year-old man interviewed in the CNN article stated that he had been diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer, and he felt fortunate that his cancer was detected early. He stated that his cancer was accidentally discovered when he was examined after a fall injury. He was able to have the thyroid cancer surgically removed from his neck last year. 80% of all thyroid cancers are slow-growing, papillary cancers. The 25-year-old man lives in the Huguenot neighborhood of Staten Island. He stated that he feels the residents of Staten Island have been ignored and their stories silenced.
Staten Island also has another inactive landfill, Brookfield Park. In the 1970s, illegal toxic dumping happened at Brookfield Park. Brookfield Park was closed in 1980, and the site has been studied in 1996 and then once again in 2020. Great Kills Park, another landfill, has been undergoing a cleanup project since 2005. Great Kills Park was found to be contaminated with radium, which is a known carcinogen.
The city intends to convert Fresh Kills into a park called Freshkills. Freshkills is expected to open in 2036. The park will span 2,200 acres, which is nearly three times the size of Central Park. The Freshkills park will have athletic fields, playgrounds, a wildlife refuge, and horseback riding trails. According to some Staten Island residents, building a park on top of the Fresh Kills landfill is terrifying. A 65-year-old woman living in Staten Island’s Huguenot neighborhood has been diagnosed with both leukemia and breast cancer. She states that she is scared of the potential dangers to those using the park and that many other residents are concerned as well.
A few years after 9/11, some cleanup workers were exposed to Ground Zero and Fresh Kills debris and now suffer serious health problems. James Zadroga, a New York City police detective, began to fight for 9/11 survivors suffering illnesses linked to debris exposure from Ground Zero. Mr. Zadroga passed away at the young age of 34. In Mr. Zadroga’s autopsy, the coroner stated that Mr. Zadroga passed away due to inhaling toxic dust while working at Ground Zero. Mr. Zadroga was the first emergency responder to die from exposure to the dust at Ground Zero. Since 2006, New York City officials have acknowledged that there are thousands of people who are suffering from 9/11-related health conditions. Mr. Zadroga was inducted into New York City’s Hall of Heroes in lower Manhattan. Mr. Zadroga became the namesake for a 2011 federal law that extended both medical monitoring and compensation for first responders and survivors who suffer 9/11-related illnesses. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) is a federal fund that provides compensation to workers and victims who sustained a 9/11 injury or medical condition such as cancer to file a claim for federal compensation. The law was extended through 2090. The fund covers people who worked at Fresh Kills landfill and on the barges. But whether or not the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) extends to residents who live or lived the Fresh Kills landfill has not been made clear.
The residents of Staten Island feel the city officials brought that toxic materials into their communities and these officials overlooked the residents of Staten Island they dumped their toxic waste.
As a New York-based law firm, our firm was also affected by the events of 9/11. Our dedicated 9/11 lawyers promise to work hard to win you the monetary compensation you deserve under the Zadroga Act. Call our 9/11 victims compensation fund lawyers today at 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-768-7529) or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free case review with no obligation or visit our Victim Compensation Fund page for more information.
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