“There’s uranium that’s 17 times higher than the reference range… manganese, vanadium, manganese and vanadium,” says Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, reviewing results from recent conducted to screen residents for dangerous compounds in their bodies.
Dr. Sumchai is leading a biomonitoring program that aims to measure the presence of dangerous pollutants among the group of people who live and work near the Hunters Point Shipyard, and her findings so far have been striking.
“One that turned my day around and set my hair on fire when I got it back,” says Dr. Sumchai of a recent result. Of the thirty or so people she has screened so far, every single person was found to have at least one chemical present in dangerous quantities, and sometimes they had many more.
These findings alarming in their own right, but in the face of this pandemic Dr. Sumchai believes the presence of these compounds, some of which are known to weaken the immune system, are representative of the community’s deep vulnerability to the pandemic.
“You just presume that if people have multiple elements that are being detected in toxic concentrations, that they are likely to be at risk,” she says, adding that air pollution in the neighborhood increases those risks. “In this community there is a perfect storm of medical and environmental conditions.”