Machesney Park-area listed as “hotspot” for developing cancer: Study

Local News

CLARIFICATION: The ProPublica report did not specifically list Machesney Park as producer of cancer causing chemicals.

MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WTVO) — A new report from the non-profit news agency “ProPublica” identified part of Winnebago County as having cancer-causing air.

The study found industrial pollution around parts of Machesney Park, but a local environmental expert said that families should not go packing their things just yet. He said that being aware of all possible health risks is key to staying safe.

“This is an inhalation risk we’re looking at here,” said Theodore Hogan, an Environmental Health and Safety Professor at Northern Illinois University.

The report from “ProPublica” used data from the EPA to identify areas where industrial pollution may be putting people at a greater risk of developing cancer.

However, Hogan said that the numbers do not tell the full story.

“They’re looking at lifetime exposure, over 70 years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Hogan said. “So, that’s a little bit different than what most people think about when they think about exposures.”

According to Hogan, one chemical that was labeled problematic is chromium, although certain types of the metal are much more hazardous than others.

“The way the data is reported, it doesn’t always sort out the nuances between the different types of materials,” Hogan said.

Knowing about possible exposure sites can help people take steps to protect themselves, Hogan said, but air pollution is just one risk factor that can lead to health problems.

“You can’t pinpoint one thing and say ‘that’s what caused my problem,’ there’s multiple factors that come into play,” Hogan said. “That doesn’t mean it’s not important, it is important to know this type of information.”

Chemicals that people use on a day-to-day basis can be just as harmful to one’s health, according to Hogan.

“It’s important to look at not just the exposures that happen outside your environment, but also in your home. There are many cleaning chemicals, if used improperly, that can create hazards that are fairly serious,” Hogan said. “Look carefully at the labels, follow the label instructions. You can do things directly to control your own risks of exposure.”

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