Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition – Preliminary Discussionof Environmental Health Issues in Springfield
Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition
Working to improve the quality of life for individuals, families and communities affected by asthma.
PVAC is a coalition of health professionals and institutions, community groups and residents, public health organizations, municipal and state agencies, academic institutions, schools, day care, housing and environmental groups committed to improving asthma and environmental conditions that affect health in Western Mass.
Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition
127 State St., PO Box 4895
Springfield, MA 01101-4895
of Environmental Health Issues in Springfield
First Healthy Environment, Healthy Springfield CARE Project Stakeholder Meeting
Below is the “Preliminary Discussion of Environmental Health Issues in Springfield MA” document presented to community residnets on January 10, 2012. This document is intended to begin a conversation about Springfield’s challenges and to foster a community discussion that develops solutions to the problems that the people of Springfield prioritize.
- overview of discussion documentOur purpose is to provide the public a general understanding of environmental conditions in Springfield, sufficient to encourage community discussion and decision-making. Each document – and successive document – will reflect community decisions made following draft publication. This document will review some of these issues in the summary and factsheets that follow.This document is not intended as the ‘final word’ on environmental health conditions in Springfield. Rather, a beginning place to pursue solutions to improve life in Springfield. Many environmental concerns have not been represented here and some are so significant and complex, they will require additional resources to fully assess. Since this is the beginning of the conversation, we have deferred talking about solutions and feasibility at this stage. We feel that discussion needs to include the community and must first follow a review of environmental concerns, building off community priorities as they are developed.Because this document simply identifies problems and concerns, it may project a ‘negative’ tone to some. This is not our perception of Springfield, nor should the reader despair. There is a great deal of good work being done and Springfield has many wonderful assets. Only a few things can be mentioned here:
- Robust public health networks and clinical health services
- Strong community identity and coalitions
- 50% of homes are owned by their occupants
- Excellent libraries
- Growing local colleges
- Emerging community gardening movement.
- Many public parks within walking distance of residents
- Affordable, architecturally-significant communities
- New economic development, including newBaystateHospitaland solar power farm
- Broad-based economic development planning processes
- Springfieldrecognized as 4th greenest city in the US
- Assessing Conditions in SpringfieldAs will be evident in the pages to come, the environmental health issues in Springfield are serious and complex. Our assessment work is on-going and will be more fully addressed in our Report on Environmental Health in Springfield.That said, we need to start a conversation on these issues, while we continue the process of investigating environmental conditions in Springfield. Assessment Challenges and Continuing ResearchSome of the most significant environmental issues Springfield faces are not represented in this document. These include: Built EnvironmentIndustrial Air PollutionSchools and Public BuildingsExtreme Weather EventsWaterPollen/AllergiesYouth and the Environment In some cases, we are in the middle of assessing the available data on these issues. In other cases we are wrestling with gaps in the available data and in other cases we are awaiting promised data or hunting that data down. These issues will be more fully addressed in our upcoming Report on Environmental Health in Springfield.But the depth and complexity of some of these issues most notably, 985 oil & hazardous waste sites, industrial and biological pollution in all ponds and waterways, industrial air pollution and other identified issues will require on-going assessment and research. Some of this will require citizen participation to achieve. Others will require research investment. We hope those who see these issues as important will become CARE Project stakeholders and join the effort to resolve them. Environmental Justice: SpringfieldAttending to these issues is important because of Springfields designation as an Environmental Justice Community by the US EPA. Environmental Justice is defined by the EPA as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. The goal is to ensure that everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work. In Massachusetts, Environmental justice communities are defined by any of 4 criteria:
- Households earn 65% or less of the statewide household median income; or
- 25% or more of the residents are minority; or
- 25% or more of the residents are foreign-born; or
- 25% or more of the residents are lacking English language proficiency
- Median Household income: 64% of statewide median. Springfield $39,611. Massachusetts: $62,072. National: $49,445
- General Demographics: 38% Latino (any race), 22% African American, 2% Asian and 38% non-Latino white
- Foreign born: Only 6% of Springfield residents were born outside the US.
- Language: Approximately 30% of Springfield residents speak a language other than English in the home.
- Unemployment: Official rate (U-3) 8.1% (Nov. 2011), Census 2010 (18.5%). Including discouraged workers and underemployed, estimated at 20% or more.
- Foreclosures: 1,312 Springfield homes in foreclosure, July-Sept. 2011, the second highest foreclosure rate in New England.
- Poverty: 34% of residents. 48.3% of children under 18. (125% of US poverty threshold).
- Vulnerable Populations by Age: 31% under 20. 11% over 65. These populations are at greater health risk than the general population.
- Exposure– how many people are exposed including percentage of people at risk and likelihood of exposure. Special attention was given here to vulnerable populations (seniors/children).
- Health Impact– how harmful it is to peoples health including symptoms experienced, health problems caused by issue, severity of symptoms and health problem, number of ER visits
- Economic Impact – how costly it is to the Springfield economy including estimated current cost, healthcare costs and loss of productivity
- Ecologic Impact – how harmful it is to the Springfield environment including buildings, vegetation, water, soil and animals
- 985 oil & hazardous waste sites have been documented in Springfield since the state started tracking hazardous waste sites in the mid-1980s. Over time, these sites have had various levels of pollution. Many have been cleaned-up or addressed to varying degrees, some are in the process of being addressed, and a few have only recently been identified.
- The highest number of hazardous waste sites is in East Springfield and Indian Orchard.
- Springfield has at least 150 additional brownfields sites. They range in size from acre to over 10 acres, covering more than 70 acres of Springfield land.
- The hazardous materials commonly found in brownfields and hazardous waste sites depending on the particular site, include:
- Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic, and other toxic materials such as PCBs, asbestos, petroleum products and chlorinated solvents.
- Abandoned houses are common in many neighborhoods.
- 1 out of 12 (8%) housing units in Springfield are empty (4954 vacancies). Many of these are abandoned buildings depress property values and can be hazardous.
- The June 2011 tornado made the brownfield problem worse.
- Of the seven neighborhoods affected, three (South End, Six Corners, Old Hill) were devastated, creating more brownfields in these areas.
- Some pollutants in Springfields brownfields and hazardous waste sites could cause heart and lung disease, cancers, birth defects, nervous system damage and other health conditions if people are exposed to high levels.
- The health risk for some contaminants, such as lead, are greater for children and pregnant women.
- Contaminants may travel in windblown dust and get into the soil of vegetable gardens of neighboring properties. Gardeners need to take extra care when planting food crops.
- Many items dumped contain harmful chemicals that pollute the environment:
- Building products – These can include paint, strippers, oils, pressure treated wood that contain toxins like methylene chloride, PCBs, arsenic and asbestos.
- Electronic products Computers, cell phones, and televisions. They contain highly toxic metals and chemicals, like mercury, cadmium, and flame-retardants.
- Household products – Some mercury containing items include: florescent light bulbs, old thermometers, pre-1990 batteries, light switches, old thermostats. Household pesticides, and many cleaning and maintenance products are also toxic.
- Abandoned cars They have leaking oil, gasoline, anti-freeze and rusting metals.
- Abandoned tires They pollute soil and provide an ideal place for mosquitoes to grow. Mosquitoes can spread diseases, including West Nile fever and encephalitis.
- Medical waste Hazardous items include syringes, old thermometers, medications, and fabrics contaminated human body fluids and waste.
- Water-related environmental risks of illegal dumping include
- Contamination of ground water, ponds, streams and wetlands.
- Flooding and blocked streams, storm drains and drainage basins.
- Litter, illegal dumpsites and uncollected trash cause property values and quality of life to go down. They also increase costs to taxpayers for removal and clean-up.
- Children are at special risk due to illegal dumping.
- Vacant lots and dumpsites become playgrounds for children. Exposure to many safety and health risks, including injury, tetanus, disease and bedbugs is likely.
- Discarded furniture spreads bedbugs and disease
- Soft household goods mattresses, couches, chairs, carpets may have bedbugs, fleas, and disease-causing germs. People taking household furniture that has been left on the side of the road or at dumping sites bring these problems into their home.
- Some pollutants do not break down easily and stay in the environment for a long time
- There is widespread use of pesticides and herbicides
- There are frequent spills of petroleum products
- PCBs are often present in caulking and sealants used in buildings. They were banned in 1979. They will also be present in the soil around these buildings.
- Lead is still present in soil from exhaust from vehicles using leaded gasoline before 1996. Lead in soil also comes from peeling, chipping, scraping and sanding of lead-based paint on homes before it was banned in 1978.
- Arsenic, copper, and chromium can get into soil from pressure treated wood used in yards, decking, and playgrounds. Regulations were passed in 2003 limiting its use for homes and playgrounds.
- Cadmium levels in soil have been increasing due to the use of recycled materials containing heavy metals being used to make fertilizer.
- 85% of US households use pesticides.
- Pesticides and their containers are often thrown out in regular trash or illegal dumping sites and pollute the environment.
- Gasoline and oil is accidentally released at gas stations, auto repair shops, industry, and homes. Undetected leaks are a problem with underground storage tanks.
- Fuel spills occur during vehicle accidents and fueling of vehicles and buildings.
- In 1999, there were more than 4200 spills in the US of over 15 million gallons of oil.
- Children are particularly vulnerable to petroleum products and lead in soil which affects their developing brains and organs.
- Heavy metals such as arsenic and chromium can cause cancer.
- Pesticides can cause a wide range of health effects including: headaches, nausea, dizziness, eye and lung irritation, skin reactions, allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivity, infertility and birth defects, autism, learning disabilities, cancer, diabetes, Parkinsons and Alzheimers disease.
- There are days with unhealthy air quality
- The government has standards for the amount of pollutants in the air. Above these levels the air is unhealthy for sensitive individuals and maybe other individuals too (see Health Issues Section below for sensitive individuals).
- Average daily levels of small particles (PM2.5) in Springfield go over the governments standard about once a year. The air is unhealthy for sensitive individuals on these days.
- People in certain communities in Springfield are exposed to higher levels of diesel exhaust
- Communities with bus and truck depots, where trains idle, or next to major highways or roads are likely to have higher levels of diesel pollution. Examples are the North End, East Springfield and Indian Orchard.
- Diesel pollution can harm the environment
- Diesel exhaust contributes to haze, smog, and global climate change.
- Diesel exhaust can soil and discolor buildings.
- Some people are more sensitive to health effects from diesel emissions, such as
- People with asthma, emphysema, chronic lung disease or heart disease.
- People with weaker immune systems, children, babies, and older adults.
- Springfield has a large portion of the population that is vulnerable
- Springfield has high rates of asthma. 21% of school children have asthma.
- Short-term health effects: Eye, throat, bronchial irritation, lightheadedness, nausea, heart attack, respiratory symptoms (cough, wheezing), increased allergic responses and asthma-like symptoms to known allergens.
- Long-Term Health Effects: Long term exposure to diesel exhaust is also linked to lung cancer and heart disease.
- Springfield residents mainly drive to work
- 86% of individuals drive a vehicle to work and only 6% take public transportation.
- Several major roadways and two highways (I-91, 291) run through the city
- This increases exposure to vehicle exhaust for residents in nearby neighborhoods.
- There are days with unhealthy air quality
- The government has standards for the amount of pollutants in the air. Above these levels the air is unhealthy for sensitive individuals and maybe other individuals too.
- Average daily levels of small particles (PM2.5) in Springfield go over the government standard about once a year. On these days, the air is unhealthy for sensitive individuals. See Health Effects section below.
- Average daily levels of ozone come close to, and occasionally go over, EPAs standard each summer. The air is unhealthy for sensitive individuals on these days.
- Exposure to these pollutants in vehicle exhaust can:
- Children and the elderly are two sensitive groups that are most at risk of developing health related issues from repeated or high level exposures
- Cause irritation and swelling in the airways leading to your lungs
- Aggravate asthma symptoms in people with asthma
- Increase emergency room visits for respiratory symptoms
- Cause heart disease, including hardening of the arteries leading to the heart
- Can cause cancer
- Much of the housing in Springfield contains lead paint
- Another source of lead exposure is in drinking water
- 90% of houses in Springfield were built before 1979 and likely have lead paint.
- Houses in disrepair are more likely to have paint chips and cracks, which can result in high levels of lead in house dust.
- The 2011 tornado caused a lot of damage to buildings and houses creating water leaks leading to cracking paint and chips.
- Lead dust from paint on houses and buildings can also make its way into the soil and gardens. Lead from outdoor soil can be carried indoors on shoes and clothing.
- Some drinking water pipes in home and buildings may contain lead solder, which dissolves into the water. School are required by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to test for lead and other pollutants in drinking water.
- Children are most at-risk for health problems because of lead exposure
- Children are the most at risk of exposure because they spend more time on the floor or the ground and are more likely to put things in their mouths, such as lead paint chips or their hands that have lead dust on them.
- Lead affects childrens developing brains, particularly under age 6. Lead can cause learning problems, decreased intelligence, hyperactivity, headaches, seizures and even death.
- Springfield children are at higher risk of lead poisoning.
- Adults can have high blood pressure, nerve problems, difficulty concentrating, and muscle and joint problems.
- Springfield is one of the top 10 cities in Massachusetts at highest risk for childhood lead poisoning. In 2010, 14,771 children under 6 years of age were screened for lead in their blood and 21 children had higher than recommended levels.
- Mold can grow wherever there is moisture.
- Cleaning mold is often done incorrectly, adding new health risks.
- Mold in Schools
- The average age of Springfield school buildings is over 55 years old, increasing the possibility of mold problems in these buildings.
- Areas with a lot of mold can also remain hidden behind walls & ceilings, under floors, behind wallpaper, in crawlspaces, etc.
- People should not generally use chemical products, such as bleach, to kill mold. These chemicals can cause their own health effects.
- Chemicals, may kill the mold, but dead mold can still cause allergic reactions.
- Residents often try to clean-up areas of mold larger than 10 square feet (3 ft. by 3 ft. patch) rather than getting professional help.
- 32% of homes were built before 1940, and 80% were built before 1979.
- The 2011 tornado caused damage to buildings, resulting in water leaks and mold.
- Indoor mold can cause:
- Wheezing and chest tightness in people with asthma
- Lung problems in otherwise healthy children
- Allergies including sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rash (dermatitis) in otherwise healthy people
- Infections in people with weakened immune systems or lung disease
- Mold and dampness in homes can increase the chance of getting asthma, having cough, or other breathing problems, by 30-50%.
- Children are most at-risk for health problems due to second-hand smoke
- Major health problems in children due to second-hand smoke include asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), pneumonia, and ear infections.
- Each year in the U.S., there are 7,500 to 15,000 infants hospitalized due to secondhand smoke.
- Each year in the U.S., there are 150,000 to 300,000 new cases of pneumonia and other lung infections in infants due to secondhand smoke.
- Parents are responsible for 90% of childrens exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Adults can develop serious health problems because of second-hand smoke
- People in Springfield are more at risk for exposure to secondhand smoke
- Breathing in secondhand smoke leads to 3,000 lung cancer deaths in non-smokers in the U.S. each year.
- Secondhand smoke causes 46,000 heart disease deaths in the U.S. each year.
- 24% of people in Springfield smoke compared to 16% statewide (and 21% nationwide).
- The rate of smoking among pregnant women in Springfield is double the rate statewide (14% vs. 7%).
- Childrens Health Effects
- Ear infections
- Coughing, sneezing, wheezing
- Development of asthma, and triggering asthma symptoms
- SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
- Adult Health Effects
- Lung cancer
- Heart disease
- Asthma symptoms
- There is widespread use of pesticides
- Pesticides are often used and disposed of improperly leading to increased exposure
- 85% of U.S. households use pesticides and 80% of our pesticide exposure is indoors.
- There are 300 different chemicals used in over 20,000 different products. Selecting the proper pesticide and amount to use is often better left to professionals.
- Without reading the label on safe use, people often use pesticides in larger amounts than recommended, and without using goggles, gloves, or masks.
- Pesticides are used without changing the conditions that attracted the pests in the first place, leading to the re-use of pesticides when pests come back.
- Pesticides and their containers are often thrown in the trash or are illegally dumped.
- Allergy and asthma are the major health effects associated with pests
- Children are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of pesticides
- Pesticides can cause a wide range of health effects including: headaches, nausea, dizziness, eye and lung irritation, skin reactions, allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivity, infertility and birth defects, autism, and learning disabilities, cancer, diabetes, and may increase risk of Parkinsons and Alzheimers disease.
- Cockroaches and mice can trigger asthma symptoms in people with asthma.
- Springfield has high asthma rates. 21% of school children have asthma.
- Children play on the floor and have a higher exposure to pesticides in floor dust.
- Accidental pesticide poisoning of children under 5 years old is common. Pesticides poisonings are the 12th highest reported poisoning of children under age 6, and 8th highest for adults.
- Carbon monoxide levels in Springfield homes
- The Springfield Fire Department responded to 1,426 carbon monoxide incidents from 2001-2010. 95% occurred in residences.
- Springfield averaged 117 carbon monoxide incidents each year from 2006-2011. Trends show the number has increased during this time.
- Carbon monoxide problems may be more common in low-income neighborhoods where furnaces may not be well-maintained.
- In 2011, major power outages occurred due to the tornados, Hurricane Irene, and a snowstorm. Many people incorrectly used gas-powered generators or BBQ grills indoors. Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide resulted. This led to several emergency hospitalizations and a few deaths.
- Carbon monoxide can affect everyone who is exposed.
- Individuals more vulnerable to carbon monoxide are infants, the elderly, people with anemia, or people with a history of heart or respiratory disease.
- Low levels of carbon monoxide (>70 parts per million (ppm)) can cause headaches, dizziness and fatigue.
- Moderate levels of carbon monoxide (>400 ppm) can cause severe headaches, dizziness, mental confusion, faintness and nausea.
- Very high levels (>2,000 ppm) can cause death within minutes.
- Debris: the remains of anything broken down or destroyed
- Flaking: to peel off in small pieces
- Mold: a growth of tiny fungi forming on vegetable or animal matter, commonly as a furry coating, and associated with decay or dampness
- Odor: a smell
- Personal Care Products: soap, make-up, shampoo, cosmetics, perfumes etc.
- Pesticides: chemicals that kill pests (rodents, cockroaches, fungi)
- Pollen: made by flowers, grass, and trees; can cause allergies
- Recreation: pastime and enjoyment
- Second Hand Smoke: smoke from a cigarette, cigar, or pipe that is inhaled not by ones own choice, especially by nonsmokers
Copyright Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition
All rights reserved.
Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition
127 State St., PO Box 4895
Springfield, MA 01101-4895