NEW JERSEY RELEASES HEALTH ASSESSMENT ON CANCER
AND CHROMIUM WASTE SITES IN JERSEY CITY
(10/P135) TRENTON - A health assessment by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and Department of Environmental Protection found no evidence that Jersey City residents who lived near chromium-contaminated sites from 1979 to 2006 were at increased risk of three types of cancer -- oral, esophageal or stomach.
The DHSS and DEP used New Jersey State Cancer Registry data and information on the chromium waste sites in completing this health assessment, which was a follow-up to a 2008 health study that focused on lung cancer in the community. Both health assessments were conducted under an agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
All 126 Jersey City sites contaminated with chromium ore processing residue have undergone at least interim remediation to prevent further direct exposures to residents, and remediation has been completed at 50 of the sites. The study recommends continued site remediation in order to limit exposure to hexavalent chromium.
In the 1950s and 1960s, many tons of waste from Jersey City's chromium ore processing industry were used as fill material at residential and commercial construction sites in that city. Some of the waste has been found to contain hexavalent chromium, which is known to cause human lung cancer when breathed in, and may cause oral, esophageal and stomach cancer when swallowed.
According to the study released today, rates for two types of cancers - oral and stomach - were not elevated in areas near the contaminated sites.
While esophageal cancer in males was elevated in areas exposed to the chromium waste, the increase was not statistically significant. Also, esophageal cancer rates in males did not appear to rise with increased potential for exposure - that is, with residence closest to the sites. This means the increased rate of esophageal cancer in males is most likely due to chance and not due to chromium exposure. Risk factors for esophageal cancer include gastroesophageal reflux disease, tobacco or alcohol use, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables.
The 2008 health assessment of lung cancer also cited the importance of continued remediation, and recommended the second health assessment released today. The follow-up health assessment was needed to analyze oral, esophageal and stomach cancer rates in light of then-recent studies suggesting ingesting chromium could be linked to increased cancer risk. The 2008 assessment found that lung cancer rates from 1979 to 2003 were higher in areas closest to the historic locations of sites that had been contaminated with chromium.
The health assessment can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/cehsweb/documents/hudson_co_chromium_hc.pdf