Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brown's Dump Data Changes Could Diminish Health Risk

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brown's Dump Data Changes Could Diminish Health Risk

Article excerpt

State toxicologists are revising part of their report on the health risks from Brown's Dump, after a Jacksonville residents group questioned some statistics.

The revision is expected to show a lower level of health risk to area residents than was reflected in the original report, officials said.

The revision should be out in a couple of weeks, said Randy Merchant, environmental administrator for the Florida Department of Health's Bureau of Environmental Toxicology.

He expects no change to the report's conclusion: Of the contaminants in the Brown's Dump area of Northwest Jacksonville, lead contamination poses the only potential health risk to people.

But Shelia Andrews, an area resident and member of Citizens Organized for Environmental Justice, said the issue will shake residents' confidence in the health risk assessment.

"We relied upon that as being accurate as it was presented to us," she said.

The report was discussed during an emotional public meeting last week at Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School. Local and state health officials told a crowd of 150 people that the school, which is in the Brown's Dump area, will be safe for children to attend.

About 140 students are transferring from the school to eight magnet programs throughout the county.

The residents group has questioned a table in the report that calculates the cumulative effects of dioxins, furans and PCBs. Dioxins and furans are chemicals produced by burning plastics and other trash. Dioxins can cause cancer in animals and are suspected by some scientists to cause metabolic illnesses in people. PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, were used as a coolant in transformers for many years, and can harm the development of unborn children.

The group claims it has information from the Center for Health, Environment and Justice in Falls Church, Va., that the figures indicate a serious health risk to the public.

Stephen V. Lester, science director for the center, could not be reached for comment.

The table in the state health department's report shows a "toxic equivalency factor" for those chemicals that, in the highest concentrations found in the Brown's Dump residential area, is 800 times greater than a screening value. …

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