Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Air has elevated cancer risk in 600 neighborhoods

Air has elevated cancer risk in 600 neighborhoods

By DINA CAPPIELLO - 14 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AP) - People living in nearly 600 neighborhoods across the
country are breathing concentrations of toxic air pollutants that put them
at a much greater risk of contracting cancer, according to new data from the
Environmental Protection Agency.

The levels of 80 cancer-causing substances released by automobiles,
factories, and other sources in these areas exceed a 100 in 1 million cancer
risk. That means that if one million people breathed air with similar
concentrations over their lifetime, about 100 additional people would be
expected to develop cancer because of their exposure to the pollution.

The average cancer risk across the country is 36 in one million, according
to the National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment, which will be released by the
EPA on Wednesday.

"If we are in between 10 in 1 million and 100 in 1 million we want to look
more deeply at that. If the risk is greater than 100 in 1 million, we don't
like that at all ... we want to investigate that risk and do something about
it," said Kelly Rimer, an environmental scientist with the EPA, in an
interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Parts of Los Angeles, California and Madison County, Illinois had the
highest cancer risks in the nation - 1200 in 1 million and 1100 in 1
million, according to the EPA data. They were followed by two neighborhoods
in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and one in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama.

People living in parts of Coconino County, Arizona and Lyon County, Nevada
had the lowest cancer risk from air toxics. The counties with the least
toxic air are Kalawao County, Hawaii and Golden Valley County in Montana.

"Air toxic risks are local. They are a function of the sources nearest to
you," said Dave Guinnup, who leads the groups that perform the risk
assessments for toxic air pollutants at EPA. "If you are out in the Rocky
Mountains, you are going to be closer to 2 in a million. If you are in an
industrial area with a lot of traffic, you are going to be closer to 1100 in
1 million."

The analysis predicts the concentrations of 124 different hazardous air
pollutants, which are known to cause cancer, respiratory problems and other
health effects by coupling estimates of emissions from a variety of sources
with models that attempt to simulate how the pollution will disperse in the
air. Only 80 of the chemicals evaluated are known to cause cancer, EPA
officials said.

The information is used by federal, state and local agencies to identify
areas in need of more monitoring and attention.

The data to be released Wednesday covers pollution released in 2002. Since
the last update in 2006, which covered 1999 emissions, cancer risk
nationwide has declined from 41.5 people in 1 million to 36 people in 1

On the Net:
EPA National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment (NATA):

Blog Archive