Trash Station Plans Cause Health Worries

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Advocacy group and local physicians express concerns for children with asthma

The East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station, which if built, would transfer 5,000 tons of garbage daily from the Upper East Side's Yorktown neighborhood to New Jersey, has not been popular with the community. Opponents cite the garbage facility's proximity to Asphalt Green, where hundreds of children play, nearby low-income housing, the plan's exorbitant costs and pollutants that would be added to the air.

Pledge 2 Protect, a new advocacy group that has collected almost 8,000 signatures against the construction of the Marine Transfer Station, recently released reports that broke down the probable impacts of the garbage center. At the top of the list? Health concerns for the children in the community. The reports claim that the hundreds of trucks traveling in and out of the transfer center emitting diesel fumes would aggravate asthma and respiratory problems in children.

"Pollution is all over in an urban environment but concentrated in an area where children are playing is counterintuitive," said Dr. Jennifer Ratner, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the study. "Where the fine particulate matter from the diesel fuel is going to spew, children will be exercising and breathing faster and breathing in these fuels. Is this really smart?"

Diesel fuel, just this past year, was identified by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen. And according to the study, the fine particulate matter - pollution emitted from diesel trucks - will reach levels of 2.5 parts per million in the area where the trucks will be traveling. This fine particulate matter is so miniscule, that it cannot be emitted from the lungs, and instead remains in the lungs, causing pulmonary issues in children, according to Dr. York Battey, an air pollution expert from Yale University.

This is enough to increase emergency hospital room visits by 4-8 percent, according to the Department of Sanitation Solid Waste Management Plan. Children in particular who suffer from asthma or other respiratory diseases will be susceptible to the increase in pollution, according to Dr. Jennifer Peel's 2005 study on ambient air pollution from the Rollins School of Public Health.

And it's not just Pledge 2 Protect that has expressed concerns with the placement of the Marine Transfer Station.

"This is definitely a concern. All of the different fumes from the trucks may cause airway inflammation in children and chronic inflammation in asthma patients continues to be present," said Dr. Denise Serebrisky, director of the pulmonary pediatric division at the Jacobi Medical Center in The Bronx, who is not associated with the advocacy group. "We already know that when asthmatic children are always exposed to these particles, their breathing becomes worse over time and they will need more medication."

Dr. Serebrisky also explained that the garbage center will also attract more roaches and rats, which can also irritate allergies in children. Scientific studies and numbers aside, parents in the community are not too happy about the possible health effects of their children playing next to a waste management facility.

"If this is built, we will stop going to Asphalt Green," said Jeff Yates, whose 5-year-old daughter plays regularly at Asphalt Green. "It will dramatically impact our lifestyle. They say that in New York, there are more rodents than people. Can you imagine if they put a garbage facility next to a recreational center?"

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