Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Dangers Associated with the Toxins in the Gowanus Canal

Pardon Me for Asking Blog:  Business Owners Concerned about Toxic Sludge behind after Gowanus Canal Floodwaters Receded

"However, I just received an email from David Green, a science teacher, who raises the alarm on the dangers associated with the toxins. He writes:
"I am a science teacher with a background in Chemistry and Physics living in Brooklyn Heights.I saw your post on the flooding from the Gowanus canal.
The situation you describe is quite serious concerning the toxicological hazard from that particular flood. All the flooding in NY produced some hazard because of the sewage mixed with the flood water (particularly bad in red hook), but the Gowanus waters are leaden with Lead and Mercury, and dangerous volatiles too.
Sewage can be cleaned and sterilized with detergent and chlorine bleach, but if toxic water and sludge gets into a basement (or first floor) there is no way to clean it out completely. Wooden floors and even concrete absorb it and leave residues that cannot be removed.
Note: In areas that have been contaminated with lead and mercury compounds Chlorine bleach (such as Chlorox) could have the unintended consequence of turning non soluble compounds into more soluble ones making exposure risks greater, so bleach should not be used in Gowanus flooded areas. 

The long term dangers of these toxins are so great that I would recommend to all people who lived in a dwelling that got flooded by the Gowanus (basements and first floor apartments that got filled with this water), to notmove back in to their apartments.
This is even more the case for people who have children. The younger the child the more damage is done by heavy metal poisoning, and the damage is essentially permanent. This damage can take years to accumulate in the nervous system but once done cannot be remedied. It does not take much to cause damage- the amount a child ingests by putting their hands in their mouth is more than enough. Some of these chemicals produce continuous vapors which makes it impossible to avoid exposure.
I would strongly advise people with children especially babies and toddlers to not move back in, until the apartment is cleaned and then tested for these chemicals. If levels are above those set for safe exposure they should find someplace else to live.
I know that this could cause utter disruption of peoples lives, but disruption of living plans is better than permanent neurological damage."
This is probably the best advice. The Gowanus Canal is a toxic brew on a good day. Hurricane Sandy's flood waters certainly deposited hazardous substances and sewage in businesses and homes on the banks of the Gowanus. I am frankly surprised that we don't have people in Hazmat suits controlling the situation."