Raymark and Health
The EPA’s investigation and cleanup of Raymark waste in Stratford was prompted by concerns about potential health impacts. Contaminated soils at the surface could lead to human exposures to toxins contained in the waste including lead, asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). (For information about the chemicals that make up Raymark waste, go to "What is Raymark Waste?")
Exposure to Raymark waste could occur from breathing in contaminants in the air, ingesting the contaminated soil or through direct skin contact. Once it became known that these toxins were posing a risk to the community, actions were taken to cover the waste or fence off affected areas. By 1995, many of the waste sites were remediated and restored to a safe condition including two public recreation areas, numerous residential properties, and the former Raymark industry site.
Several studies have been done to look at cancer rates and other health concerns of Stratford residents over the nearly fifteen years since the Raymark investigation began. Brief summaries of each study and/or fact sheets are highlighted below. You can also download a brief abstract or view the studies electronically in the List of Health Studies.
An extensive blood lead-screening program was offered to children and others in the spring of 1993. The screening did not show an unusually high rate of lead poisoning in residents who had spent time on one or more of the known Raymark waste sites. Click on Blood-Lead Health Consultation, Raymark Industries, Inc. 1994 for a copy of report published by the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH).
CANCER RATES & BIRTHWEIGHT STUDIES
A preliminary review of birth defect rates was conducted by Dr. Holder Hansen, a physician and epidemiologist and Head of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics with the University of Connecticut School of Medicine (Memorandum on Birth Defects in Stratford. Holger Hansen, MD University of Connecticut School of Medicine (July 1993)). Looking at x years for which there was birth defect data, Dr. Hansen found that there was not unusual rate for those children born in Stratford.
DPH also reviewed cancer rates in Stratford residents over a 34-year period (1958-1982 and 1971-1990) and found Stratford rates to be mostly in line with the rest of the state. Because there was a slight rise in cancers in younger age groups during the 1970’s the state health department, in conjunction with and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) agreed to conduct a more involved study of cancer incidence evaluating another ten years or so worth of data (Cancer Incidence and Birth Weight in Relation to Exposure to Raymark Waste (November 1998)). This study also failed to show any definitive correlation between living close to a known waste site and increased cancer risk. An abstract and a fact sheet summarizing the findings for the 1998 study are available on the List of Health Studies page.
These same studies looked at birth defects and low birth weight. Again, no unusual trends were observed and there was no apparent connection between these events and exposure to Raymark waste. They did observe a slight increase in bladder cancer which prompted the health agencies to evaluate rates even further. A third cancer incidence analysis was conducted in 2001 (Health Consultation Review of Bladder Cancer Data (May 2001)) to evaluate if potential exposure to Raymark waste could be associated with bladder cancer.
The other major health concern to arise from Raymark is the contamination of groundwater associated with the former facility’s industrial practices. Although residents do not drink this groundwater, there are chemicals in the water that flows beneath the former site that form gases and can enter homes that sit above the groundwater plume. These chemicals, called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) were found in some homes in a Stratford neighborhood that are down gradient from the former Raymark site. A study was done to determine if the VOCs might pose a long-term health threat. In the fall of 2003, all of the homeowners that might be impacted by this issue were offered sub-slab ventilation systems as a precautionary measure. These systems, very similar to radon elimination systems, are designed to prevent VOCs in groundwater from entering basements and living space. Click on abstract for a summary of the report titled, Health Consultation: Evaluation of Indoor Air, Soil Gas and Groundwater Data Sampling Phases 2, 3 and 4 (2001, 2002, 2003).