GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – After presenting scrutiny to a state study looking at Warren County’s abnormally high cancer rates, the Clean Air Action Network of Glens Falls isn’t done yet.
Last week, the group made a presentation analyzing a 2019 study by the New York Department of Health, looking at Warren County’s rates. That study blamed those numbers on lifestyle factors like smoking, drinking and obesity, and the Clean Air Action Network says they ignored significant environmental factors in doing so.
To further that conversation, the network is hosting an online town hall meeting next Wednesday, Feb. 24. Members of the public are invited to attend, to speak with David Carpenter, MD, and Paul Hancock, PhD, who have been strong scientific voices in the work to get another look at cancer in the county.
In their presentation earlier this month, the network pointed out that the lifestyle choices the cancer rates were blamed on weren’t high enough to make sense.
Smoking and drinking rates for Warren County both hovered around the state median outside of New York City; the county is ranked #26 out of 56 for both. For obesity, the county is looking even better, at #36 out of 57.
In the presentation last week, both Carpenter and Hancock looked to PCBs and carcinogens as the overlooked factor, and plan to talk more on the subject at the town hall, which can be accessed through the network online.
They point to PCB particles that have entered the air in potentially hazardous levels thanks to local industrial plants, such as Wheelabrator in Hudson Falls and Finch Paper in Glens Falls. The group says that the DOH didn’t review recent air quality data when determining the health factors at play in the county.
Shortly after News 10 ABC reported on the network’s presentation last week, the Department of Health reached out with more details regarding the work they had done during the 2019 study.
Spokeswoman Erin Silk said the industrial sites mentioned were among 22 that were evaluated in the study, and that air samples taken from Glens Falls showed that the average PCB levels were within the range of what was considered safe.
Silk also said those numbers came from 2000 and 2002. It’s time lapses like that that the clean air network says gives them pause.
The Department of Health also sent along information on previous PCB studies in the area, made relevant in part due to GE dewatering plant dredging dating back to the 1970s. PCB-laden sediment dredged up was used in filling in backyards in Glens Falls, a factor shown in a DOH study that measured PCB levels as significantly higher in the city than in Fort Edward or Hudson Falls, both of which are closer to the plant.
Still, the DOH claims no traceable link.
“The evaluation found no evidence suggesting that contamination from these sites was causing widespread exposures in Warren County that would account for the elevated cancer rates,” Silk wrote.
The New York State Department of Health did not return a request Wednesday seeking further comment on the clean air group’s findings.
During last week’s presentation, network representatives said the next challenge was getting their research seen and recognized.
The Clean Air Action Network of Glens Falls is hosting the town hall discussion at 6:30 p.m. next Wednesday.