The Alliance For A Clean Environment

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Lung Cancer

Greater Pottstown Area 1995 to 1999

Area Around Pottstown Landfill vs. U.S. and Tri County
Includes Lower Pottsgrove, Upper Pottsgrove, West Pottsgrove, Pottstown, North Coventry, Douglass Berks

Type of Cancer
Gr. Potts.
Oth. 3 Co.
% Above
% Above
Lung 197 62.3 55.7 52.6 +11.8 +18.4

Sources: Pennsylvania State Cancer Registry, National Cancer Institute (cancer cases) 1995 to 1999.
U.S. Census Bureau (population data)
Statistics: Joseph Mangano, MPH MBA National Coordinator RPHP (718) 857-9825

Ø    The Montgomery County Health Department in January, 1998, reported that LUNG CANCER around the Pottstown Landfill was HIGHER than the tri-county by 22 % to 33 % (1985 to 1994).

Ø    LUNG CANCER between 1995 to 1999, still remains HIGHER around the Pottstown Landfill, than the Tri-County and Nation.

Ø    LUNG CANCER has been found to be HIGHER around a large municipal solid waste landfill like the Pottstown Landfill in Montreal, Quebec.

Ø    LUNG CANCER was found to be HIGHER in counties with the highest concentrations of landfills - 1989 EPA study examined 593 waste sites in 339 counties.

Ø    LUNG CANCER was found to be ELEVATED around all 38 landfills in a New York State Health Department study around 38 Landfills. VOCs, which can cause cancer, were found escaping off-site into the air from 25 of those landfills.

Coincidence? We think NOT!

Waste Management’s Consultant stated that her analysis shows lung cancer remained increased since the 1985-1994 cancer analysis. She said, “This continued elevation in lung cancer rates suggests that it may be real; however, there are many possible causes for this elevation other than the landfill exposure.” She suggested that cigarette smoking may account for the elevation in lung cancer over the surrounding counties.

ACE Questions, Comments and Responses:

1. The current condition of our air is a public health issue. We breathe the top 10% of the most carcinogenic and unhealthy air in the nation, according to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory. Waste Management’s most potent carcinogens are added on to that. Pottstown Landfill is a major source of the kinds of air pollution that can cause lung cancer and damage the lungs.

2. Based on the latest TRI data, Montgomery County got an “F” from the American Lung Association, in its 2003 report, “State of the Air,” 1999-2001. It has the second dirtiest air in the state (far worse than Philadelphia, Berks, or Chester counties). Based on EPA’s study of over 500 waste sites, Pottstown Landfill is likely a major contributor to the “F’ rating of Montgomery County air.

3. Additive and synergistic damage has been done to the lungs of area residents from Pottstown Landfill’s HUNDREDS of TONS of MAJOR AIR POLLUTION EVERY YEAR. Pottstown Landfill’s air pollution is emitted 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, where people already breathe the top 10 % of the most unhealthy and carcinogenic air in the nation.

4. Pottstown Landfill is considered a MAJOR air polluter, according to health based standards under the Clean Air Act. Many chemicals in Pottstown Landfill’s massive off-site air pollution can cause lung damage, even permanent lung damage. Included:
    a. Benzene is Linked to LUNG CANCER - We have no idea how much benzene is emitted into our air by the Pottstown Landfill, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. ACE identified 20 Benzene compounds on Pottstown Landfill reports. These are all reasonably expected to be emitted with Pottstown Landfill Gas at some level.
    b. Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) – Causes respiratory problems, chronic lung disease, and permanent lung disease. Pottstown Landfill is permitted to emit 100 TONS per year.
    c. Sulfuric Acid – Can cause LUNG CANCER. Sulfuric Acid is formed when sulfur dioxide turns to sulfur trioxide, then to sulfuric acid.
    d. Nirrogen Oxides (NOx) – NOx is a toxicant to the lungs and respiratory system – NOx may damage lung tissue. Over 50 TONS of NOx are emitted from 5 combustion sources at the Pottstown Landfill every year.
    e. Ammonia + NOx + Moisture Form Nitric Acid and Related Particles - which damage the lungs. Ammonia is emitted regularly from an air stripper on the Pottstown Landfill.
    f. VOCs + NOx = Ozone - which causes permanent lung damage and lung inflammation.
    g. Particulate Matter (PM10) – Causes lung disease, decreased lung function, and increased respiratory disease. Pottstown Landfill is permitted to emit 70 TONS of PM 10 every year.
    h. Carbon Monoxide (CO) – Causes pulmonary disease. Pottstown Landfill is permitted to emit 50 TONS of CO every year.
    i. Chlorine Chemicals – Cause lung damage. There are massive amounts of chlorine chemicals and their compounds which are emitted into our air from 8 different sources at the Pottstown Landfill.
    j. Mercury - is easily absorbed by the respiratory tract and may cause damage to lungs.
5. Impeccable hard science from the American Cancer Society and Harvard Medical School point directly to ozone, particulates, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and VOC’s, for lung disease. They are all emitted in massive amounts with Pottstown Landfill’s air pollution.

6. After the release of the Montgomery County Health Department cancer investigation in 1998, ACE sent them the information about elevated lung cancers around other landfills and referred to their map which showed horrific lung cancer patterns in the general downwind pattern of the Pottstown Landfill. Still, the health department continued to blame smoking, ignoring the evidence of harm from Pottstown Landfill gas.

7. The WM consultant states; “there is a suggestion that smoking rates are likely to be higher in the Greater Pottstown Area than the surrounding counties, which may account for this elevations.” The claim that people around the Pottstown Landfill smoke more on average than those in Reading, Norristown, etc. is baseless
    a. ACE would like to know “WHO” is suggesting that smoking is the reason for higher lung cancer around the Pottstown Landfill than the tri county?
    b. What study was this conclusion based on? What comparison groups were used?
    c. Words such as “”likely” and “may” in her statement intentionally mislead the public.
Looking at the facts about Pottstown Landfill’s air pollution - we don’t believe people around the Pottstown Landfill or people around other landfills are getting lung cancer because they smoke any more than other people across the nation. There is no site specific proof that people in North Coventry, Douglass Berks Township, Upper, Lower, West Pottsgroves or Pottstown smoke more on average than other communities. There are many people here with lung cancer who never smoked at all.

P.O. Box 3063
Stowe, PA 19464

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