Toxic emissions from a Buchanan, N.Y.-based nuclear power plant may cause serious health problems, including the appearance of radioactive materials in baby teeth, according to a new report released Tuesday.
The Radiation and Public Health Project, a nonprofit group of health professionals and scientists dedicated to conducting studies about the health risks of nuclear power, released a report detailing the health and environmental threats the Indian Point Energy Center poses at a press conference Tuesday at Earthplace.
The report is a compilation of various studies on Indian Point and its effect on the surrounding area. Communities in Fairfield County are located between 18 and 45 miles away from the power plant.
"Indian Point releases small amounts of chemicals into the air each day," said Joe Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project. "We citizens have been eating or drinking radioactivity since these reactors opened."
Indian Point generates electricity from two reactors, which have been open since 1974 and 1976, respectively. The power plant has released the fifth most airborne radioactivity of all the nuclear power plants in the United States, according to the report.
The levels of Strontium-90 -- a radioactive chemical that can cause cancer and leukemia -- in the baby teeth of children in Fairfield County were higher than those tested in New York City and Long Island, according to the report.
Since 1971, the cancer death rate for Fairfield County children and adolescents has been 4 percent higher than the national average, according to the report.
New Canaan resident Gail Merrill, a breast cancer survivor, also spoke at the press conference. Merrill, an environmental activist, believes there is a direct link between her bout with cancer and her home's proximity to Indian Point.
Robyn Bentley, senior communications specialist for Indian Point, said the same type of study has been used by nuclear activists throughout the country and questioned its validity.
"While the study tries to link the cancer rate to the nuclear power plant, what it doesn't do is use scientifically accepted controls, and it doesn't consider other explanations for cancer," she said.
The report also warned the public about a nuclear meltdown or large-scale release of radioactivity. A meltdown would cause about 518,000 cancer deaths within 60 miles of the plant, according to the report.
"There is no room for error here," said Mangano. "The damages would just be unbelievable."
Bentley said the power plant "holds public safety in the highest regard" and the public should not worry about a meltdown.
Mangano said the release of the report marks the beginning of an educational campaign about the alleged dangers of Indian Point and nuclear power in general. The executive director also said more studies need to be conducted on the effects of nuclear power.
"Connecticut has sort of been asleep," said Mangano. "In New York, there's a lot of hubbub about Indian Point. We hope this report sort of energizes Connecticut."