The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Casmalia Steering Committee have identified a wide range of toxic contamination throughout the Casmalia Resources hazardous waste management facility, which has been closed since 1991.
More than 300 chemicals, including metals, volatile and semivolatile organic compounds and both dense-component and light-component nonaqueous phase liquids, have been detected in the soil, surface water and underground aquifers.
Health impacts from exposure to those toxic materials can range from moderate to life-threatening, depending on the method, duration and intensity of the exposure.
Here’s a look at some of the pollutants found on the site and the potential health effects from exposure to them.
Nonaqueous phase liquid groundwater pollutants generally include chlorinated solvents, wood preservatives like creosote and pentachlorophenol, coal tars and pesticides.
Human health impacts from exposure to creosote and coal tar include increased risks of bladder and lung cancers and multiple myeloma.
Exposure to pentachlorophenol can damage the liver, kidneys, blood, lungs, nervous system, immune system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, eyes and mouth and, in large enough amounts, can cause the cells to produce heat, raising body temperature to the point of organ failure and death.
Chlorinated solvent exposure can lead to fatigue, headaches, chronic skin problems, damage to the nervous system, kidneys and liver and various cancers.
Exposure to pesticides, depending on the type, can result in increased risks of leukemia, lymphoma and cancers of the brain, kidneys, breasts, prostate, pancreas, liver, lungs and skin, neurological damage, dermatitis, diabetes, altered fetal growth, birth defects, fetal death, reduced male fertility, genetic alterations to sperm and altered hormone function.
Volatile and semivolatile organic compounds consist of carbon combined with such elements as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur and nitrogen, and health problems they can cause depend on the compound, how the exposure comes about and the length and intensity of the exposure.
Impacts can range from relatively mild and short-term issues like eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, fatigue, loss of coordination, allergic skin reactions, nausea, and memory impairment to more severe and long-term problems like liver, kidney and central nervous system damage.
Metals most commonly found in contaminated groundwater include arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel and zinc, and they also cause a wide range of health problems.
Depending on the metal and amount of exposure, they can lower energy levels, damage the brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, blood composition, chromosomes and DNA, cause thickening and altered pigmentation of the skin and interfere with enzyme regulation.
Metal exposure can also lead to cellular degeneration, memory problems, brain necrosis, behavioral changes and physical, muscular and neurological degenerative processes that imitate such diseases as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and muscular dystrophy.
Some metals can also contribute to incidences of bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory problems and can cause skin, lung, bladder and kidney cancers.