Between 1947 and 1977, General Electric dumped an estimated 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River. The source of the PCB discharges was two GE capacitor manufacturing plants located in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, New York, about 50 miles north of Albany. GE’s PCBs are now found in sediment, water and wildlife throughout the Hudson River ecosystem as far south as the New York Harbor. They are also found in people.
The EPA and numerous national and international health-protective organizations classify PCBs as probable human carcinogens. In humans, PCB exposure has been scientifically linked with developmental and reproductive abnormalities, endocrine disruption, neurological dysfunction, and compromised immune systems.
Mercury is a metal that occurs naturally in the environment as a silvery liquid or as a vapor. When items containing mercury, like thermometers, are dumped in the trash, some mercury will eventually enter the environment. Coal burning plants, cement plants and other industry also release mercury as a pollutant. Mercury and mercury compounds can be found in air, soil and water. Mercury is also found in fish in the form of methylmercury. Fish absorb methylmercury from water and from eating smaller creatures that contain methylmercury. In humans, exposure to high levels of metallic, inorganic or organic mercury can damage the nervous system and kidneys. Children and unborn babies whose nervous systems are still developing, may suffer brain damage, behavioral and developmental problems from exposure to methylmercury.
Cadmium is a naturally-occurring metal found in small amounts in soil and water. It is used in many industrial operations and in consumer products such as paints, plastics and batteries. Cadmium also occurs in foods, tobacco and can be found in fish and shellfish from some waters. Cadmium accumulates in the body, mainly in the kidneys, and with continued exposure can have effects on kidneys, bones and blood. In 1995, a Superfund cleanup removed cadmium-laden sediments discharged from a battery factory between 1953 and 1979 in Foundry Cove near Cold Spring.
Strontium-90 (Sr-90) is the latest of several radioactive isotopes, including tritium, cobalt, and cesium, to be discovered in groundwater wells or soil samples since a leak from the Indian Point 2 spent fuel pool was discovered in August 2005. Sr-90, one of the most toxic byproducts of nuclear power generation, is produced as a fission byproduct of uranium and plutonium. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the isotope can enter the food chain when released into the environment. Human ingestion of strontium-90 – either by drinking water or eating contaminated food products – is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and concentrates in bone mass. Exposure to strontium-90 increases the risk of numerous diseases including bone cancer, leukemia, and soft tissue cancer. According to scholars at Northern Arizona University, strontium-90, which behaves like calcium, is accumulated by organisms and passed along a food chain magnifying with each link in the food chain. Consequently, top carnivores can accumulate very high concentrations of this radioactive isotope, even if only very low concentrations are released to the environment.