Massport told to fund health study

The funding that had been cut for the state’s health study that would once and for all shed light onto how Logan International Airport is affecting the health of residents in a five mile radius has been re-established legislatively by Senator Anthony Petruccelli—and the best part is, he’s making Massport flip the bill.

Due to state budget cuts to local earmarks funding for the $1.3 million health study, which was Petruccelli’s first piece of legislation when he was a state representative back in 2001, was cut with about $200,000 left to go. Residents and local environmental activists waiting to finally see the results of the study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) cried foul when funding was cut.

Petruccelli was also very disappointed and vowed to figure out a way to get the study past the goal line.

"This (legislation) has been my baby for nearly a decade," said Petruccelli. "It’s clear we’ve made great efforts to correct the impacts and dangers we can see and hear at Logan but it’s those impacts that are invisible that have always concerned me."

According to Petruccelli’s legislation, Massport will pay the final $195,000 to complete the study.

Already bits and pieces of the study were leaked to the media. Last year a rough cut of the DPH study suggested that Logan is making residents here sick and killing scores of people here and in surrounding communities.

This of course came as no surprise to people living here who didn’t need a report to prove what residents have been saying all along. However, the new data obtained by WBZ two years ago helped drive home the point.

State health data obtained by the station showed that compared with the statewide average, there are elevated rates of heart disease in Everett, Hull, Malden, Lynn, Medford and Saugus. Asthma rates are also higher in Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Lynn and Revere.

"But it’s what was found in the neighborhoods that really caught the attention of Suzanne Condon of the state Health Department," WBZ reported. "And it’s this simple fact: Lung cancer rates are higher the closer you get to the airport."

Condon, the lead investigator, told the station that smoking is probably not the cause.

But it’s the callous statement by Massport at the time that really had people peeved. A spokesperson for the Port Authority said "the city of Boston, as well as major highways, also contribute to air pollution and that may be another explanation for the elevated number of diseases in the five-mile area" and not the airport as the sole contributor.

However, Massport could not explain other diseases directly related to specific toxins in jet fuel.

In 2004 the we first reported a link between Logan and the unusually high cluster of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) cases in Chelsea, Eastie and Winthrop. Xenobiotic exposure, or exposure to environmental toxins found in jet fuel.

A former resident discovered the link while researching the high number of people living with MS in Chelsea, Eastie and Winthrop and submitted her findings to the DPH. All the people studied had two things in common–they were diagnosed with MS and lived under or near Logan’s approach and departure paths.

Robin Dolan, who has been living with MS since 1992, completed the five years of extensive scientific research into the probable cause(s) of MS in Chelsea, Eastie and Winthrop and hopes her study will raise the state’s awareness of the high occurrences of the disease in these areas.

While she admits that her MS study may not be the smoking gun that Logan expansion opponents, Dolan is content with bringing the outbreak of MS in Chelsea, Eastie and Winthrop to the forefront.

“I have been told not to expect admittance of guilt,” she said. “I just would like awareness that MS may be caused by a state agencies (Massport). The DPH should show sincere concern for, and want to protect, the health of the citizens of Massachusetts. When I get receipt that the study was received by the DPH, even if I never hear from them, I and others will know they know.”

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