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Public Statements

Letter to Dr. Frieden, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-08) yesterday sent a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden asking the agency to investigate the health effects of chemical contamination in Pompton Lakes, including a scientifically controlled, full health study of the town's residents.

For decades, residents of Pompton Lakes have been concerned that chemical contamination in their environment is affecting their health. In the mid 1980s, contaminants mixed with ground water and created a contaminated plume beneath nearly 450 homes. As recently as 2008, tests indicated the solvents were vaporizing up through the soil into basements of some of these homes. These solvents are considered likely human carcinogens.

A preliminary New Jersey Health and Senior Services Department analysis found that women in Pompton Lakes were hospitalized for cancerous tumors 38 percent more often than women throughout the rest of the state. Many residents in the city live in proximity to chemical waste and contaminated ground water, but the survey drew no conclusion as to the cause of this alarming uptick in hospitalization.

Senators Lautenberg and Menendez and Congressman Pascrell have requested that the CDC expand on the state's efforts to investigate the harmful effects of chemical contamination throughout the city, and to conduct a scientifically controlled, full health study to produce a more comprehensive and conclusive set of findings.

"Efforts to clean up environmental contaminants and mitigate their effects must remain our top priority, but, as we work toward a full cleanup, Pompton Lakes residents deserve to know more about how their health is being affected by chemicals in their soil and ground water," Senators Lautenberg and Menendez and Congressman Pascrell wrote. "It's time to examine all the health effects of this contamination in the most scientifically rigorous way possible."

The full text of the letter is available here and copied below:

Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.
Director
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30333

Dear Dr. Frieden:

For decades, residents of Pompton Lakes, New Jersey have been concerned that chemical contamination in their environment is affecting their health. As the state of New Jersey conducts a community health profile of the area, we ask that CDC take all appropriate action to fully investigate the health effects of this contamination by assisting with and augmenting the state's investigations.

Recent evidence raises serious questions about how chemical contaminants found in homes and ground water may be affecting the health of Pompton Lakes residents. Released earlier this summer, preliminary findings from a community health profile by New Jersey's Department of Health and Senior Services show that Pompton Lakes residents are hospitalized more often because of tumorous cancer and visit the emergency room more often for epilepsy, migraines, dizziness, and other nervous system diseases than their neighbors in surrounding communities.

Efforts to clean up environmental contaminants and mitigate their effects must remain our top priority, but, as we work toward a full cleanup, Pompton Lakes residents deserve to know more about how their health is being affected by chemicals in their soil and ground water. We are encouraged that the state will be expanding the community health profile later this year by conducting health surveys of residents living above the plume, and all Pompton lakes residents deserve to know the results as soon as possible. We ask that CDC consider using its personnel, expertise and resources to expand upon the state's existing efforts and hasten the conclusion of the community health profile.

In addition, we ask CDC to work with state officials to conduct a scientifically controlled, full health study to assess the complete effects of contamination on the health of the town's residents. Previous health studies have focused only on specific diseases or relied upon information that could not specifically link contamination to disease. It's time to examine all the health effects of this contamination in the most scientifically rigorous way possible.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.


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