Monday, December 11, 2006

Guam a "toxic dumpsite"

Szyfres: Guam residents live in ‘toxic dumpsite’
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff

CONTAMINATION in Guam’s environment may have caused other diseases affecting local residents who live in “a toxic dumpsite,” according to University of Guam professor and researcher Dr. Luis Szyfres.

Szyfres said the contamination started with the storage of toxic chemicals by the U.S. government. “There are no longer dumpsites of toxic chemicals on Guam, but the island remains a toxic dumpsite,” he said.

Due to evaporation, rain, infiltration and wind dispersion of the toxic chemicals in the dumpsites for more than 50 years, the contamination has spread all over Guam, Szyfres said.

Diseases prevalent on Guam besides neurodegenerative conditions include diabetes, various types of cancer and disorders affecting the kidneys, skeletal system, heart and arteries, glands and hormones and respiratory system.

Other diseases associated with exposure to toxic chemicals are deafness, blindness, liver dysfunction, anemia, sudden infant death syndrome, and progressive immune suppression.

Szyfres also pointed to a Government of Guam report which showed that in comparison to the continental U.S., many diseases on island have epidemic proportions and death rates here are higher than in the mainland.

Szyfres also noted that the prevalence of certain types of cancer is way higher in Guam than in the mainland. These include nasopharyngeal cancer, which is 1,999 percent higher in Guam; cervical cancer, 65 percent higher; uterine cancer, 55 percent higher; depression/suicides, 67 percent; liver cancer, 41 percent; diabetes, 150 percent; Ischemic heart disease, 15 percent; and kidney failure, 12 percent.
In coming up with the theory linking Guam diseases to toxic chemicals, Szyfres cited studies conducted by local and federal agencies.

He said his report is aimed at providing the population of Guam with concrete official information about the health hazards to which they are exposed, and “to avoid any type of political or government interference with the truth, by presenting their own official information.”

Szyfres, a professor at the UOG College of Natural and Applied Sciences, acknowledged that health problems related to toxic chemicals “is obviously a very sensitive socio-political issue.”

He cited studies by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which presented concrete evidence that the soil and groundwater of Guam contains toxic chemicals, and that concentrations of the toxic chemicals are above their own acceptable levels.

The toxic chemicals found on Guam include aluminum, barium, antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, chromium, lead, manganese, unspecified metals, nickel, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, selenium, silver, thallium, tetrachloro dibenzeno dioxins, total petroleum hydrocarbons, vanadium, volatile organic compounds, trichloroethylene, benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylenes, and semi-volatile organic compounds, and zinc.

“Unknown to the residents of Guam, the food they eat, the water they drink, and the air they breathe are contaminated with toxic chemicals,” Szyfres said. “The toxic chemicals enter the person’s bloodstream and may affect any organ or system in the body.”

“The fact that the only way that toxic heavy metals can get to the brain is through the blood, and that they can only get to the blood through the food, water, or air contaminated with heavy metals, proves that the toxic chemicals are not only in the environment of Guam, but in Guamanians as well,” he added.

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