Mortality among Former Love Canal Residents

University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York, USA.
Environmental Health Perspectives (Impact Factor: 7.98). 03/2009; 117(2):209-16. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.11350
Source: PubMed


The Love Canal is a rectangular 16-acre, 10-ft deep chemical waste landfill situated in a residential neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York. This seriously contaminated site first came to public attention in 1978. No studies have examined mortality in the former residents of the Love Canal neighborhood (LC).
The aim of this study was to describe the mortality experience of the former LC residents from the years 1979-1996.
From 1978 to 1982, 6,181 former LC residents were interviewed. In 1996, 725 deaths from 1979-1996 were identified in this cohort, using state and national registries. We compared mortality rates with those of New York State (NYS) and Niagara County. Survival analysis examined risks by potential exposure to the landfill.
We were unable to demonstrate differences in all-cause mortality for either comparison population for 1979 1996. Relative to NYS, the standardized mortality ratio (SMR) was elevated [SMR = 1.39; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.16-1.66] for death from acute myocardial infarction (AMI), but not relative to Niagara County. Death from external causes of injury was also elevated relative to both NYS and Niagara County, especially among women (SMR = 1.95; 95% CI, 1.25 2.90).
The role of exposure to the landfill in explaining these excess risks is not clear given limitations such as multiple comparisons, a qualitative exposure assessment, an incomplete cohort, and no data on deaths prior to 1978. Lack of elevation for AMI when compared with Niagara County but not NYS suggests possible regional differences. However, direct cardiotoxic or neurotoxic effects from landfill chemicals or indirect effects mediated by psychological stress cannot be ruled out. Revisiting the cohort in the future could reveal patterns that are not yet apparent.

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