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"Are Hazardous Vapors Seeping Into Basements Across The United States?" - Lynne Peeples

  • Global Voices
  • New York, NY
  • (2017-09-21 00:00:00.0)

Toxic vapors intruding into buildings continue to surface around the country – from a mobile home park near San Diego to sites throughout Minnesota. The implicated contaminants – most notoriously chlorinated solvents, such as TCE and benzene – can migrate through soil and groundwater from where they have seeped into the earth from a leak or spill. Common sources include dry cleaners, gas stations, auto repair shops, military bases and industrial sites, even those whose doors closed a decade ago. While exposure to high levels of these vapors can cause immediate effects, such as irritation and fatigue, breathing small amounts over a period of time is more concerning, according to Philip Landrigan, MD, MSc, professor of environmental medicine, public health, and pediatrics, and the dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Babies and small children can especially be damaged by very low concentrations of some of these materials," he added. Long-term exposure to TCE or benzene is known or suspected to raise the risk of certain cancers and other health effects, although it still remains unclear if intruding vapors reach high enough concentrations to pose a significant threat to human health. 

- Philip Landrigan, MD, MSc, Professor, Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Pediatrics, Dean for Global Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

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