The importance of telling doctors about potential Keegan-related health issues

If one thing has become clear over the last six months, since the Keegan Landfill became a major issue locally, it’s that there are a lot of people who still have no idea anything is even happening over on the Bergen Avenue extension. It’s certainly not for a lack of effort — there have been countless events, meetings, protests and media coverage on the landfill since early 2019. There has also been a ton of information shared on social media.

But it’s becoming ever more evident that there are a lot of people who still don’t know there’s a serious health crisis in West Hudson. Here’s an example: One Observer staff member recently took an Uber ride. The driver, a Kearny resident, said he knew about the smell, but in discussion, quipped: “Are they doing anything about that?”

There cannot be a supposition that everyone knows. Evidence is proving not everyone does. But this all leads to an even more serious situation — just how many people are there, out there, who may be suffering health ailments that may be the result of the emission of hydrogen sulfide — and who may not even know why they’re experiencing such ailments?

Last week, this newspaper reached out to several physicians who treat patients from West Hudson. We asked them if they’re seeing an increase in respiratory issues, or other ailments, that could be attributed to what’s happening at the Keegan Landfill.

One doctor flat out said: “no,” while the rest ignored our request for general data. We weren’t seeking individual examples. Nothing we asked would have violated HIPAA privacy regulations. We simply wanted to know if the doctors had seen patients who complained of ailments known to be caused by over-exposure to H2S. After all, wasn’t there just an H2S reading of 800+ parts per billion a couple weeks ago? That is about 27 times the maximum allowable reading before exposure to the gas could be very serious and detrimental to a human being’s health.

So why this editorial?

We are certainly aware of many people who have complained about ailments believed to be caused by the landfill. We see them constantly on social media. But it’s becoming more and more clear that some are not telling their doctors and some might not even be aware of the possible cause of these ailments.

Documentation is critical here. We are no medical experts, but we cannot encourage residents enough to speak about this situation with anyone who might not know what’s happening — and we cannot encourage residents with these ailments enough to report them to their doctors.

We already know this is a health crisis, despite the state’s attempt, across the board, to say otherwise. But as we’re still being exposed to the H2S — and likely will be for a long time to come — never has it been more important to document every single instance of potential over-exposure to H2S.

Since the state doesn’t seem to care, we must do so on our own.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.