Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Garbage Under Westbeth Windows?




While we all believe in the importance of recycling, there are clear red flags to be considered in the location of any type of recycling center, even only for transport. To be concerned about the potential health hazards is not to be a “limousine liberal” as George Cominski, President of the Westbeth Artists Residents Council suggested at the “information meeting” last week, but rather to be an informed, intelligent and aware citizen. If the garbage sites & air pollution in the South Bronx make people sick, why is it “liberal” to be willing to accept the same hazards in our neighborhood park? Do we paint our apartments with lead paint in solidarity? Is it not more important to preserve the quality of life of all New Yorkers, including ourselves? Our “liberal guilt” should not be used as a tool against our own health, and the health of the birds, fish and aquatic life of the River.

There is an extensive amount of research available on the Internet documenting the many problems associated with recycling. Recycling must be done with much attention to the location since there are a wide variety of hazardous substances involved, even just for transport.

Our Hudson River Park not only serves humans, but is an important site for aquatic life and migratory birds. While the children in the playground close to the recycling center cannot jump on the garbage, the migratory birds will pass directly over it, can land on it to snack, and will be in danger from the many toxic materials that can severely affect them.

The EPA provides several warnings regarding recycling. Certain types of HHW (Household Hazardous Waste) have the potential to cause physical injury to sanitation workers, contaminate septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems and present hazards to children and pets. NYC Recycling trucks pick up enormous quantities of HHW in recycling trash, particularly those areas that do not yet have collection programs, or clear instructions on proper disposal. There are many risks of products exploding, igniting, leaking, mixing with other chemicals, or posing other hazards on the way to a disposal facility and awaiting transport. Even empty containers of HHW can pose hazards because of the residual chemicals that might remain in them.

A large component of recycled materials are discarded electronics.
Discarded electronics contain hazardous materials. If disposed improperly, they pose a potential threat to human health and the environment. E-Waste accounts for 40 percent of the lead and 75 percent of the heavy metals found in landfills. Although safe when used, once electronics are recycled, to be discarded in a landfill, the acidic conditions provide an environment in which lead and other heavy metals may leak out. If the landfill's liner fails, the groundwater supply may become contaminated; our river can become highly toxic again.

Discarded electronics contain some of the most toxic substances in modern life.

These toxins could be released by accident, by storms, by floods, by fires, by terrorist attack!

1. Lead accumulates in the environment and has high acute and chronic toxic effects on plants, animals and microorganisms.
2. Lead is known to cause damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, blood system and kidneys in humans.
3. Effects on the endocrine system have been observed, and serious negative effects on children's brain development are well documented.
4. Lead existing in landfilled products has the potential to leach and contaminate drinking water supplies.
5. Lead is found in soldering of printed circuit boards and other electronic components.
6. Lead is also found in glass panels in computer monitors
1. Cadmium compounds are classified as toxic with a possible risk of irreversible effects on human health.
2. Cadmium and cadmium compounds accumulate in the human body, in particular in the kidneys.
3. Cadmium shows a danger of cumulative effects in the environment due to its acute and chronic toxicity.
4. It is found in certain components such as SMD chip resistors, infrared detectors and semiconductors.
5. Cadmium is lso found in older models of cathode ray tubes (glass panels in computer monitors) and in plastics as a stabilizer.
1. Mercury has been shown to accumulate in living organisms and concentrate through the food chain, particularly in fish.
2. Negative effects on brain functioning and development have been attributed to mercury.
3. Mercury is found in:
a. Thermostats
b. Position censors
c. Relays and switches
d. Discharge lamps
e. Batteries
f. Printed wiring board
Hexavalent Chromium
Chromium can cause strong allergic reactions, even in small concentrations.
It is found in untreated and galvanized steel plates.

PVC(Polyvinyl Chloride Plastics)
The production and burning of PVC products generates dioxins and furans, which contribute to air pollution and respiratory ailments.
PVC is found in cabling and computer housing

Brominated Flame Retardants
Research has concluded that exposure to these chemicals in early life could induce neurotoxic effects similar to those caused by other toxic substances such as some pesticides.
Exposure to Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBBs) are believed to cause an increased risk of cancer of the digestive and lymph systems.
PBBs are found in:
1. Printed circuit boards
2. Components such as connectors, plastic covers and cables
3. Plastic covers of TV sets
The US EPA notes that magnesium materials currently stored in flammable containers placed in recycling, and exposed to weather conditions are a serious fire and potential explosion hazard. Thousands of pounds of scrap magnesium materials are found in recycling.
There are also low-level radioactive materials present in recycling collections.
These are substances that in small quantities pose a low threat; however in large concentrated amounts, in the middle of a public park, next to a delicate Hudson River ecosystem, next to a children’s park, next to a dense neighborhood with schools, shopping, condos, apartments, townhouses, etc. this recycling center poses a health and safety hazard that the citizens of Greenwich Village & Westbeth should continue to resist, despite the WARC’s vote to support it.
Remember, George W. and the government said the air in downtown Manhattan was safe after 9/11.
Westbeth’s George C. and the WARC say the recycling center is safe.
Will we have to wait for years after the recycling center is built to note the increase in asthma, cancer, and related health problems? Or, after some disaster, be vulnerable to dangerous materials burning, floating or blowing?
I think we have learned our lesson this time.

No comments: