Village Park healthBy Gordon Y.K. Pang
Health Director Bruce Anderson and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply have torn apart a health study they say is causing unnecessary fear in Village Park.
One of the attorneys pursuing a pesticides lawsuit, for which the study was done, says his firm stands by the findings.
Village Park residents have, for a number of years, complained of higher incidences of certain ailments they believe are caused by agricultural pesticides sprayed on the land they live on.
Anderson told reporters yesterday that it was irresponsible for the law firms of Masry and Vititoe and local affiliate Tam and Stanford to conduct the informal survey rather than a scientifically designed sampling of residents.
"It raises anxieties in the community, it causes a lot of consternation on everyone's part and it leaves many questions hanging which may not be appropriate," Anderson said. "Here it seems that some lawyers are on a fishing expedition and simply looking for problems."
Washington, D.C.-based toxicologist Robert G. Tardiff, a former chief of toxicological assessment for the Environmental Protection Agency, said he and an epidemiologist looked at the survey and "we've concluded that the survey is essentially invalid."
For instance, 38 percent of the Village Park families returning surveys reported asthma cases. According to James Dahlgren, epidemiologist for the attorneys, the normal rate is 6 percent.
Tardiff said asthma has not been linked to the pesticides ethylene dibromide, dibromochloropropane or trichloropropane and actually has been on the rise throughout the world even in areas where there are no risks of exposure to pesticides.
Tardiff also was skeptical about the 20 percent of families reporting reproductive problems. Dahlgren said the normal rate is 10 percent to 15 percent.
The barely detectible levels of the pesticides in the water could not have been the reason for male infertility since only very intense concentrations of DBCP could cause such problems, Tardiff said.
Past reports by the Health Department on birth defects and special education students show that Village Park's rates actually have been lower than the rest of Oahu.
Some residents have questioned the results of the Health Department's findings, suggesting that they have been skewed.
"It is clear that in order for any kind of disease to occur as the result of an environmental factor, or chemical, you need to have both the ability for the chemical to cause injury and, equally, you need to have some degree of exposure," Tardiff said.
The water board successfully has nullified the degree of exposure to the pesticides through the use of granular activated carbon facilities to the point that they are much lower than either federal or national minimum exposure levels, he said.
The board last week sued pesticide manufacturers it believes contributed to the chemicals that made the filters necessary.
Glenn Stanford, one of the attorneys involved in the pending lawsuit, said it doesn't matter what government agencies say.
"I know (the water) has affected people," Stanford said. "We have hundreds of clients whose illnesses are so serious they touch your heart. There has been a great outpouring of people who've come forward who want to be part of the litigation."
The board will update Village Park residents on the work it is doing at a meeting on Oct. 20, 6:30 p.m., in the Kaleiopuu Elementary School cafeteria.