Garden State EnviroNews
May 31, 2005


By Peter Montague

The Newark [N.J.] Star-Ledger reported May 30 that, "A new style of
environmental protection is quietly taking hold in New Jersey,
prompting applause from industry groups and jeers from

"Recent changes at the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP]
have resulted in more outsourcing -- builders' engineers certifying
their own building permits, toxic waste consultants reviewing their
own cleanups and industrial companies writing their own smokestack

"DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell, the force behind several of the
changes, said he wants to save department staff from mountains of rote
paperwork. That leaves more time for real environmental protection, he

"Jim Sinclair of the Business and Industry Association said that when
it comes to increasing the DEP's efficiency by letting companies share
its duties, the Democrats had outdone even the administration of Gov.
Christie Whitman, who famously declared the state 'open for business'
soon after taking office," the Star-Ledger wrote.

These trends do not seem likely to reduce the chemical contamination
that is acknowledged to exist throughout New Jersey. Indeed, rather
than cleaning up toxic chemicals, the DEP's currect approach is often
to allow them to be buried beneath plastic tarps, parking lots, golf
courses, strip malls, roads, parks, and new homes. This makes the
problem appear to "go away" -- but in reality it just puts the problem
off onto our children and grandchildren.

The DEP readily acknowledges that everyone is New Jersey is currently
exposed to a witch's brew of industrial poisons. Unfortunately, the
Department's current approach is to use "risk assessment" to declare
these problems unworthy of real cleanup, much less prevention.

Here are excerpts from a partial catalog of toxic exposures that the
DEP published less than two years ago:


1,3 Butadiene -- a known human carcinogen -- the entire population of
New Jersey is exposed at low levels, DEP says.


People in urban areas of N.J. are exposed to acrolein at levels as
high as 20 times the EPA "safe" dose. Children exposed to acrolein may
have increased respiratory illnesses, the DEP says.


Benzene is a known human carcinogen.  Across N.J., exposures range
from 1 to 342 times the one-on-a-million cancer danger level.


An estimated 80,000 citizens each year (1% of the state's population)
may be developing "adverse health effects" from current exposures to
the toxic metal cadmium, says DEP.


Dioxins arise from burning garbage, coal, and oil. Everyone in N.J. is
considered to be exposed about equally to dioxins, and current
exposures "may be in the range to observe health impacts," DEP says.
Dioxins are known to degrade the human immune system, interfere with
sexual development, and cause cancer.


Chlorinating drinking water in N.J. is thought to be causing 40 to 350
bladder cancers, 2 neural tube birth defects, and 200 miscarriages
each year. Disinfection byproducts are also associated with
colorectal, brain, and kidney cancers, DEP notes without providing a
numerical estimate.


"Individuals exposed during sensitive stages of development may
experience permanent developmental deficits whose degree may range
from mild to severe," says the DEP. And: "Virtually everyone has been
exposed to some degree."

"While recognition of the potential for ED effects is increasing, many
substances with potential ED effects continue to be released into the
environment and levels of population exposure may increase as
background levels in the environment increase," says DEP.


"Formaldehyde is a pervasive pollutant, therefore all New Jersey
citizens are exposed." And: "Formaldehyde affects lung function and
raises the susceptibility toward infection.... Related to its effects
on lung function, formaldehyde may be an important contributor to the
onset of asthma," says DEP.

Without providing a numerical estimate, DEP points out that
formaldehyde is considered a probable human carcinogen.


So far as we know, the State of New Jersey collects, but does not
publish, data on the number of children who have 5 micrograns of lead
in each deciliter of blood, so the following data are national. It
seems likely that New Jersey children might fare worse than the
national average because of the age of New Jersey's urban housing

26% of U.S. children ages 1-6 have blood lead greater than 5
micrograms/deciliter,[1] which is 300 times as high as the natural
background level of lead in blood.[2]

In a study of 4,853 children, math and reading test scores declined
with blood-lead levels as low as 2.5 micrograms/deciliter.[3]

19% of white children have blood lead greater than 5

28% of Hispanic children have blood lead greater than 5

47% of black children have blood lead greater than 5

Thus, roughly half of all African-American children have enough lead
in their blood to reduce their math and reading scores.

Furthermore, "There are persuasive reasons to believe that cognitive
dysfunction may not be the most important effect of lead, and that we
may be entering a fifth stage of understanding of lead's effects, in
which lead is recognized to adversely affect social behavior," meaning
attention deficits, aggression, delinquency, and violent crime.[4]


An estimated 92% of N.J. children are exposed to methyl mercury in the
womb, says the DEP.

"For women of child bearing age/pregnant women in NJ, 10-21% are
estimated to be exposed above the RfD [reference dose, set by federal
EPA, also known as the 'safe' dose] intended to be protective against
neurologic developmental effects of the fetus in utero.

This means somewhere between 11,000 and 24,000 infants each year in
N.J. are exposed to mercury above the level thought to protect their
brain development.

MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether)

In an air monitoring program in Camden, MTBE was found in 29 out of 31
samples (94%) with a mean concentration of 1.29 ppb which is roughly
twice (1.8 times) the EPA reference ('safe') concentration.


"Because of the ubiquitous nature of nickel and its use in everyday
household items and consumer products, the statewide population is
exposed on a daily basis," says DEP.

"Chronic (long-term) respiratory effects such as asthma and an
increased risk of chronic respiratory tract infections in humans have
been associated with exposure to nickel."


"The total population of New Jersey is exposed to significant levels
of NO2," says the DEP.

"Children are susceptible to NOx and its effects on immune systems.
Asthmatics are also susceptible to low level exposures," says the DEP.

The federal standard for NO2 is an annual average of 0.053 ppm; NJ has
its own standard -- an annual average of 0.05.

"...some individual studies suggest effects in children as low as
0.015 ppm [one-third of the allowable average in N.J.]. The most
noticeable and reproduced impacts observed at low levels are the
susceptibility to respiratory disease (such as cold and flu


"The entire population of the state has been potentially exposed to
ozone concentrations above the 8-hour standard."

"Children are most at risk from exposure to ozone because they are
active outside, playing and exercising, during the summertime when
ozone levels are at their highest."

"Exposure to ozone can also increase susceptibility to respiratory

"Thousands of studies of ozone exposure indicate that there is no
minimum threshold for triggering respiratory responses and a
significant proportion of hospital visits can be associated with
exposure to elevated ozone levels."


"[We] estimate... approximately 500 to 1000 premature deaths per year
in NJ due to PM 2.5 [fine particles]."

"Groups most widely affected include young children, asthmatics, the
elderly, smokers, and individuals with chronic lung or cardiovascular


"There are no crops grown or food consumed that can be guaranteed
completely pesticide free..."

"There are no current NJ data available that can be used for
quantification of actual exposure to pesticide residues from food
grown in NJ."

"It is difficult to actually quantify the exposure level to the over
300 different pesticides used on foods.... The conclusion is that
while there is much data available, there are great gaps in what is
required before a valid assessment can be performed on the impacts
from the presence of the myriad of pesticides."

"Infants and children have higher susceptibility to pesticide residues
due to their stage of immature development and their increase in risk
from pesticide exposure. Exposure to even trace levels of POPs
[persistent organic pollutants] at crucial times in fetal or infant
development can disrupt or damage human hormone, reproductive,
neurological, or immune systems."

"Of 316 pesticides with food tolerances [numerical limits on allowable
residues on foods], only 163 (52%) of them are routinely analyzed
under FDA's [regulatory program]. Pesticide metabolites and breakdown
products, significant or toxic inert ingredients need to be analyzed
but we do not have estimates of these. No risk estimates can be done
because this basic data are [sic] not available."

"All New Jersey citizens are exposed to pesticides in the food that
they eat. Monitoring of food products shows that 40% of grain samples,
55% of fruits and 30% of vegetables test positive for at least some
level of pesticide residues. In a few cases, these detections show
concentrations of pesticides over established safety limits. There is
evidence that children are more susceptible to pesticide toxicity
because of rapid growth during development and the higher body burden
that results when children intake levels are similar to adults."


"[In a 1986-1988 EPA study of 32 pesticides]... Thirty commonly used
household pesticides were found in house dust and yard soil....
Residues of many pesticides were found in and around the home even
when there was no known use of them on the premises."

"EPA among others has serious concerns about the chronic impacts of
low doses especially on the endocrine system and reproduction, the
neurological and immune systems, cognitive and behavioral systems such
as learning, and memory."


Total annual outdoor pesticide use in N.J.: 2,365,845 pounds (or 5
ounces for every resident of the state)

"There are more than 600 pesticides in use in New Jersey... They are
designed to be toxic to target species, and in most cases create risk
to humans as well."

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)

"As many as 2000 to 2500 cases of cancer per year may be attributable
to PCBs in New Jersey. This is approximately one-third to one-half of
the total incidence of breast, pancreatic and non-Hodgkins lymphatic
malignancies in the state. There are however significant uncertainties
in these estimates. There is also evidence that pre- and post-natal
exposures to PCBs may have adverse effects on neurological

PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons)

"All New Jersey residents have been and will continue to be exposed to
PAHs, however, the degree of exposure from these sources can vary
greatly from region to region, with higher levels in urban areas...
Children and adolescents may be at increased risk due to higher rates
of metabolism."

"There are insufficient exposure data available to quantify the number
of illnesses in New Jersey."


"Bone sarcoma [cancer] increases have been reported in relationship to
radium in drinking water in studies in Canada, Illinois, and Iowa.
Because of these findings, and unknowns regarding actual tap water
concentrations in many well water sites, elevated radium in some New
Jersey drinking water sources is rated as an important health/public
health issue for the state."

"Radium passes through mother's milk to the feeding infant; it also
crosses the placenta during pregnancy, and is retained in fetal

"Radium content of fish and game could be important in some
populations with high consumption."

"In some areas of the state more than 50% of drinking water wells
exceed health based standards."


"The total number of lung cancers resulting from radon exposure may be
as high as 1700 per year."


Health effects in N.J. attributable to STS exposures:

Otitis media (middle ear infections): 14,000-32,000 cases/yr

Asthma exacerbation: 8,000-20,000 cases/yr

Bronchitis and pneumonia: 3,000-6,000 cases/yr

New asthma cases: 160-520 cases/yr

Ischemic heart disease: 700-1240 deaths/yr

Low birth weight: 194-372 cases/yr

Lung cancer: 60-80 deaths/yr

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): 38-54 deaths/yr

Lower Respiratory Tract Illness (LRI) in children up to 18 months: 2-4


It seems clear from this very limited DEP catalog of chemical
exposures in New Jersey that substantial numbers of innocent people
are being killed each year, and many more are being made sick,
especially children. It also seems clear that, because many of these
exposures occur simultaneously, risk assessment is an inapproriate
tool for weighing the health consequences of these exposures. Science
cannot accurately gauge the consequences of exposure to dozens of
toxicants simultaneously. To pretend otherwise is to engage in
scientific fraud.

So long as the state remains committed to risk assessment to evaluate
and respond to these problems, the problems seem destined to grow
worse. Precautionary action to prevent chemical exposures appears to
be the only way to make real progress, to stop the killing.


[1] Susan M. Bernard and others, "Prevalence of Blood Lead Levels >= 5
ug/dL Among US Children 1 to 5 Years of Age and Socioeconomic and
Demographic Factors Associated with Blood lead Levels 5 to 10 ug/dL,
Third National health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994,"
Pediatrics Vol. 112, No. 6 (Dec., 2003), pgs. 1308-1313.

[2] A. Russell Flegal and Donald R. Smith, "Lead Levels in
Preindustrial Humans," New England Journal of Medicine Vol. 326 (May
7, 1992), pgs. 1293-1294.

[3] Bruce Lanphear and others, "Cognitive Deficits Associated with
Blood Lead Concentrations < 10 ug/deciliter in US Children and
Adolescents," Public Health Reports Vol. 115 (Nov./Dec., 2000), pgs.

[4] Herbert Needleman, "Lead Poisoning," Annual Reviews of Medicine
Vol. 55 (2004), pgs. 209-222.