Harvard University experts will on Thursday present results from the first independent study of the Lafarge cement plant’s effects on the community’s health.
In May, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health tested about 185 residents for arsenic, lead, cadmium, aluminium and selenium. Lafarge, the state’s second-largest source of airborne mercury, is directly across the street from a high school.
Harvard was invited to conduct the study by Community Advocates for Safe Emissions, a grass-roots organization concerned about the plant.
Nearly two years ago, the group pressed the state Health Department to conduct its first-ever health study around the plant. But that report, released in November, reached no conclusion on whether the pollution might be sickening residents. A second report is in the works.
"What the state has done in that meaningless report they produced is to guess what could happen and not even do that in a thorough and sound scientific way," said Elyse Kunz, a co-founder of Community Advocates for Safe Emissions. "So we’re really interested in hearing what Harvard has to say and to put a new perspective on the issue."
People who gave blood and hair samples to the study will eventually be able to receive their individual results despite the state Health Department’s objections that releasing information that way would be illegal.
"The best-case scenario might be for them to find nothing because that means there’s no risk," Kunz said, "but I don’t think that’s going to be the outcome."