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Letter: TCE Is Unsafe at Any Level

To the Editor:

Recent news articles reveal that, contrary to prior representations from the U.S. Army and the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, trichloroethylene (TCE) is now seeping into the soil and air across the street at the Hanover Middle School. True to form, the Army has assured the public there is no risk and the situation is being “monitored.”

Before students, teachers, parents and residents of homes in the area breathe a sigh of relief, there are some facts they should know:

The ability to accurately detect TCE in the air is limited because a lot depends on the weather, the location and type of monitor, and on whether testing is continuous or sporadic. It is certain that testing will understate the problem because the variables only work to produce false negatives, not false positives.

Based on studies in animals, the EPA has determined in its 2011 risk assessment that TCE creates a risk of adverse non-cancer health effects, such as birth defects, at any level above 0.4 parts per billion in the air and 0.5 parts per billion in the water when exposure happens over long periods of time.

TCE is a proven cause of kidney and other cancers in humans. The EPA’s official position is that there is no safe level of exposure to TCE. TCE at 0.2 parts per billion in water or air during a lifetime exposure is projected to cause one case of cancer in 1 million people. It is impossible to know who that one person will be. It is true that many other things also create a risk of cancer, but TCE exposure adds to that risk.

I believe it would be prudent for much more to be done to protect the students, teachers, parents and nearby residents than to continue to “monitor” the situation. The Army should not only “be all it can be,” but should “do all it can do” to immediately address these serious risks.

Anthony Roisman