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Staten Island lawmakers seek study into Freshkills’s lasting health effects

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Councilman Joe Borelli wants to find out how the former landfill may have affected borough residents

Freshkills Park in Staten Island has come a long way since its days as the world’s largest landfill, and by 2036, its entire 2,200-acre expanse will become one of the city’s largest public parks. But even though the landfill hasn’t been in regular use for more than a decade, one lawmaker is calling for a study that examines its effects on the health of residents who lived within five miles of Freshkills when it was open.

Councilman Joe Borelli issued a 20-page preliminary report and asked the city to allot $500,000 for the Department of Health or the City University of New York to conduct said study, reports DNAinfo. For the report, Borelli sifted through Department of Health records and found that borough residents seemed to have a higher rate of respiratory illness, birth defects, and certain cancers compared to residents of the other four boroughs.

“The odor of a landfill is caused by particulate matter in the air, so if you were smelling the landfill as you grew up or lived on Staten Island there's a chance that you inhaled particulate matter,” Borelli told DNAInfo.

This isn’t the first time the city would have studied the former landfill’s effects on borough residents: a study was conducted in 1997, though Borelli argues that since it was a small sample size (and before 9/11), it’s time for an update. According to Borelli, a study would likely span several years, but it could help officials determine if residents are at a higher risks for specific diseases and allow the city to set up free screenings for those illnesses.

When contacted by DNAinfo, Mayor de Blasio’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.