New Jersey residents' toenail clippings to be tested for carcinogen

Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:24pm EDT
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By Noreen O'Donnell

(Reuters) - Scientists plan to check toenail clippings from hundreds of people in Garfield, New Jersey, to determine if residents were exposed to a toxic metal linked to lung cancer.

Chromium, the metal made infamous in California by environmental activist Erin Brockovich, has leaked from the now-demolished EC Electroplating Inc. factory and polluted groundwater.

Located 12 miles west of New York City, the area is on the federal Superfund list of hazardous waste sites. Some 30,000 people live in Garfield.

"Concentrations in the groundwater, et cetera, are very high," said Judith Zelikoff, a professor of environmental medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, told Reuters on Monday.

In 1983 more than 3,600 gallons (13,600 liters) of a chemical solution containing chromium were discharged from a tank at the factory, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The solution got into the groundwater, which flows toward the Passaic River, about 2,500 feet west of the site.

The plume is about three quarters of a mile long and slightly more than an eighth of a mile wide, said Rich Puvogel, a project manager with the EPA.

Detecting chromium in groundwater, soil and homes does not necessarily mean that people were exposed, Zelikoff said.   Continued...