Home > Uncategorized > Important Aspects Of The Alleged NJ Colonia High School Cancer Cluster Story Are Being Whitewashed

Important Aspects Of The Alleged NJ Colonia High School Cancer Cluster Story Are Being Whitewashed

No mention of air pollutants, Corporate polluters, or DEP unregulated chemicals

State Department Of Health And DEP Ignore CDC Cancer Cluster Guidelines

Murphy Administration Abdicates To Local Government

NJ Spotlight again reported today on the alleged cancer cluster among Colonia High School (Woodbridge NJ) attendees, see:

And once again, despite the coverage correcting some of the previous flaws I’ve complained about, Spotlight whitewashes critical issues.

These are not random omissions in the coverage. They all go in the same direction.

There is a pattern and they all serve to downplay broader public health risks, to avoid holding DEP and corporate polluters accountable, and to obfuscate scientific and regulatory policy problems.

NJ Spotlight reporting also fails to include links to the critical scientific and regulatory documents so readers can understand the facts.

Here’s a short list I’ve flagged previously:

1. NJ Department of Health Maintains a Cancer Registry

Spotlight has failed to report that NJ Department of Health maintains a Cancer Registry. Many cancers are associated with environmental exposures to chemicals.

NJ people would be appalled at NJ’s high incidence of cancer.

2. The federal CDC Guidelines for responding to an alleged cancer cluster are not being followed by NJ State government agencies.

Specifically, CDC Guidelines stress open and early communications with the community and media; transparency; and scientific rigor.

CDC does NOT recommend that federal and State health and environmental agencies delegate these investigations to local governments, as the Murphy Administration has done. Local governments lack the expertise, authority, and resources to respond.

Yet, instead of holding the Murphy administration to these guidelines and reporting State failures as facts, Spotlight reports these failures as shortcomings alleged by local residents.

3. The Colonia High School is surrounded, 24/7, by ambient air pollution, including by known carcinogens that exceed DEP’s cancer risk benchmarks.

DEP has published maps of known exceedences of cancer risk benchmarks by regulated “hazardous air pollutants”.

People of NJ would be shocked and appalled at these known cancer risks.

The location of the Colonia High School also suggests risks from nearby air pollution sources.

NJ Spotlight fails to mention any of these relevant facts.

4. The Toms River cancer cluster was associated with an unregulated chemical.

Toms River is being held out as a learning experience. According to a NJ Department of Health Report, the childhood cancers there were associated with unregulated chemicals.

There are hundreds of unregulated chemicals that are allowed to be emitted by corporate polluters to our air, land and water (including to sewage treatment plants that lack technology to treat or remove them). Many of these sewage treatment plants discharge to rivers above drinking water intakes. Similarly, NJ drinking water plants lack treatment to remove these chemicals, despite the fact that treatment technology is available and cost effective. DEP refuses to regulate these chemicals or mandate treatment to remove them.

Again, the people of NJ would be appalled to learn these facts.

(Historical Note: In fact, ironically, DEP’s acknowledgment and research on health risks of unregulated chemicals was prompted by the Toms River episode (read the DEP white paper):

Work on this issue by the Department began in the 1990’s in response to community concerns about a possible link between childhood cancer and drinking water contaminants

In the Toms River case, the DEP laboratory documented the unregulated chemical that was associated with the Toms River cancer cluster, known as a “trimer” – trichloroethylene, styrene-acrylonitrile (san).

Amazingly, Gov. Whitman was seeking to zero the budget, shut down this DEP laboratory and lay off the scientists when it was conducting this research. I worked with chemists in that lab to blow the whistle on this egregiously bad budget proposal. In response, 7 NJ Senate Republicans opposed the Gov. and the legislature restored $17 million of Whitman’s proposed DEP cuts. (see this post for the May 16, 1996 letter from Senate Republicans).

5 years later, during Whitman’s US Senate confirmation hearing for George Bush’s  EPA Administrator, in response to my testimony, Whitman cynically claimed she was merely “consolidating” the DEP lab with the DHSS lab. See Senate transcript).

Yet, 30 years later, hundreds of these chemicals with known or suspected adverse public health effects remain unregulated by DEP.

This is a major issue that is being obfuscated and whitewashed by the Spotlight coverage.

5. The Toms River cancer cluster was associated with air pollution from corporate polluter Ciba-Geigy.

The Spotlight coverage fails to even mention that surrounding corporate polluters – Big Pharma and the NJ petro-chemical industries – emit tons of chemicals, some of which are known carcinogens.

According to NJ Department of Health Study, the, Toms River cancer cluster was associated with:

“air pollutant emissions from the Ciba-Geigy chemical manufacturing plant”

Amazingly, Spotlight says nothing about air pollution or corporate polluters.

6. Toms River is not NJ’s only documented cancer cluster. NJ DHSS documented cancers from the Dupont Pompton Lakes toxic site.

NJ Dept. of Health & Senior Services found statistically significant elevated rates of bladder cancers in women and lymphoma in men (in Pompton Lakes Dupont site).

Here is DHSS study: (of course, the link is dead)



I wrote about it all in this 12/16/09 post, w/great photos:

Dupont & DEP Hammered by Angry Residents for Failure to Cleanup Toxic Nightmare Linked to Cancer Cluster


Of course, Dupont was never held accountable by the regulatory agencies (EPA or NJ DEP) or the NJ Courts or the NJ media.

Of course, NJ DHSS has killed the link to their own report – Down Orwell’s Memory Hole (again).

Of course, NJ Spotlight never heard of any of that.

They’d rather imply that radioactive rocks are the source of the problem.

Like radon, Rocks don’t have corporate lawyers and lobbyists – or legislators or regulators and contributing funders and Foundations in their pocket.

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