Toxic Landfill And Child Leukaemia?

Childhood Cancer

Source: New York Times, June 7 2006

Court Backs Suit Over Cancer Near Bronx Landfill

By Anemona Hartocollis

Residents of four Bronx neighborhoods who say their children developed leukemia or Hodgkin’s disease from exposure to toxic chemicals in a nearby landfill have enough evidence to be allowed to sue the city, a state appellate court ruled yesterday.

In a 3-to-2 decision, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the methodology used by epidemiologists and toxicologists hired by the Bronx residents met the test of "general acceptance in the scientific community" needed for the case to go to trial.

"To hold otherwise," said the decision, written by Justice Angela M. Mazzarelli, "would deny redress to these plaintiffs, who are living in an area where they are being systematically poisoned by environmental contaminants."

The city, which argued that the residents had not been able to show a causal connection between the landfill and the cancer cases, said it would appeal.

The lawsuit, known as Patricia Nonnon v. City of New York, was brought by the parents of 13 children who lived near Pelham Bay landfill, an 81-acre site operated by the city’s Department of Sanitation from 1963 until it was closed in 1979.

The residents contend that the city allowed companies to dump industrial and chemical wastes illegally into a landfill designed for household wastes, and that toxic chemicals leached out into surrounding water and land, where they sickened neighborhood children.

The neighborhoods affected by the landfill, according to the lawsuit, are Country Club, Pelham Bay, Spencer Estates and City Island.

The suit was filed in 1991, and since then at least 3 of the 13 children have died, Patricia Nonnon, the lead plaintiff, said in an interview yesterday. Ms. Nonnon’s daughter, Kerri, who would be 27 today, died of leukemia on Feb. 8, 1989, four months shy of her 11th birthday. Ms. Nonnon was told that her daughter had cancer on May 5, 1983, when she was 5 years old. "Those are dates you never forget," Ms. Nonnon said.

"It’s not a victory," she said of yesterday’s ruling, "because I’ve lost my daughter, and nothing’s going to bring her back. But maybe we’ll get a chance to prove that there is something wrong."

Ms. Nonnon, who still lives in Country Club, within view of the landfill, said her daughter, like the other children, played in the sand at Eastchester Bay, which the plaintiff’s experts say was contaminated by carcinogenic chemicals. She said that she kept her windows closed during summers because of the haze that came off the landfill, but that she never imagined it was dangerous.

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