Sites of Concern

North Brooklyn Neighbors Air Quality Report revelations

In February, North Brooklyn Neighbors released an air quality report, which raises many concerns.  The report was guided by community input in targeting locations to monitor.  Five locations which spatially represented multiple areas were selected in order to cover the most ground and benefit the most people.  Testing was undertaken during a 13-month window from November of 2020 through December of 2021.

The locations that were monitored were: Satmar Matzah Bakery at 427 Broadway, United Transit Mix  at 318 Boerum Street, Roebling and South 4th Streets (entrance to the BQE), Scheel Corporation at 28 Franklin Street, and McGuinness Boulevard at P.S. 34, 131 Norman Avenue Brooklyn.  Samples taken from each site ranged from 1–3 samples for a combined total of ten samples.

NBN partnered with NYU Langone to carry out the sampling.  In turn community members and organizations participated.  After being instructed in basic skills participants collected samples in their backyards or outside their windows. Approximately 24 hours after the collection began, an investigator would return to collect the devices. 

The results of the lab analyzed samples were compared against New York State’s Annual Guideline Concentrations (NYS AGC).   If the measured environmental concentrations exceeded the NYS AGC, this could mean they may be hazardous to human health.

100% of the samples contained benzene. Long-term effects of benzene exposure are: anemia, cancer, and negative effects on the immune system. Proposed likely sources for the benzene are: gasoline, cigarette smoke, or the plastics and resin industries.

Carbon tetrachloride was also found in a majority of results. It was found in nine out of ten samples.  Short-term and long-term health effects for exposure to carbon tetrachloride are liver and kidney damage.  Sources of this substance are found in industrial applications, building materials, and cleaning products.

Tetra-chloroethylene and tri- chloroethylene each showed up in two of the ten samples.  Even though this is only 20% of the samples, exposure to these chemicals can cause: cognitive impairment, liver and kidney damage, several types of cancer, and effects on central nervous system and reproductive system. 

1,3 butadiene, naphthalene, and flourene were found in one sample each.  Long-term health effects of 1,3 butadiene can be cardiovascular disease and cancer.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded that naphthalene is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Flourene’s long-term health effects are unknown, but in the short term causes irritation of the eyes and skin.

The conclusion of the report stated, “Our testing cannot positively identify that the contaminants found are attributable to the specific facilities that we tested near. This is especially true in areas such as North Brooklyn where there are a wide variety of activities present within a small area. Cars and trucks, construction, industrial facilities, and cigarette smoke, among other sources may all contribute to the results. However, our methods do show that in multiple locations over multiple time periods the levels of pollutants are not in compliance with New York State annual guidelines.”

The report was authored by Lael K. Goodman, environmental justice program manager at North Brooklyn Neighbors.  For more information or to download a copy of the report go to:

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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