When the soil of a golf course is dug up in order to convert it into a residential development, it creates a public health risk. Arsenic, a contaminant that is common in golf courses due to years of application of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, must be removed. The older the golf course, the more dangerous the levels of arsenic in the soil as arsenic remains in the upper layers of soil indefinitely. At high levels, arsenic is a recognized human carcinogen and any exposure, no matter how small, could boost risks for diabetes, heart disease and immunological problems. This poisonous mineral will be released to the atmosphere as airborne dust when the soil is dug up.
Arsenic poisoning, or arsenicosis, occurs after the ingestion or inhalation of high levels of arsenic. Arsenic is a type of carcinogen and is extremely poisonous to humans. What makes arsenic especially dangerous is that it doesn’t have a taste or odor, so you can be exposed to it without knowing it.
Symptoms of arsenic poisoning may include red or swollen skin, skin changes such as new warts or lesions, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rhythm, muscle cramps, and tingling of fingers and toes. Long-term exposure to arsenic can cause more severe symptoms such as darkening skin, constant sore throat and persistent digestive issues. According to the World Health Organization, long-term symptoms tend to occur in the skin first, and can show up within five years of exposure. Cases of extreme poisoning may even lead to death.
The concentration of arsenic and the risk of inhaling it increases twofold because there are two golf courses to be developed. The community will be exposed while the upper six inches of arsenic-contaminated soil is removed from the two golf courses to build homes and during the excavation of lakes.
A child’s exposure is greater and riskier than for an adult. Kids breathe more air per pound of body weight and a child’s normal behavior influences exposure. Children crawl on the floor, put things in their mouths, spend more time outdoors and are closer to the ground. Small particles of arsenic released to the air will adhere to driveways and be brought into the houses, contaminating carpets and toys, and could be inadvertently ingested. When disturbed the arsenic will also leak into the ground water contaminating the environment where we live.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services conducted a study of the ground* and the surface water quality in some South Florida golf courses. The result revealed that arsenic contamination was widespread at levels of concern. Concentrations of arsenic in the surface soil were found to be 5662% greater than the Florida state limit for residential environments.
The Woodlands golf courses are about 277 acres of open land. Turf maintenance started in 1968. Since then, the arsenic has been accumulating and it is estimated to remain in the soil for multiple centuries. 13th Floor Homes offered to preserve about 130 acres of open space, but 40 of the preserved acres will really be dug up and drenched with water. Therefore, we can assume that the arsenic in the 90 remaining acres will not be disturbed.
Beneath the soil to be dug up by this project, there could be a bed of arsenic the size of 104 football fields. A study(1) by the US EPA determined that one individual smoking two packs of cigarettes per day would inhale 12 micrograms of arsenic. The amount of arsenic in the upper layers of the two golf courses could be equal to 200 billion packets of cigarettes. Each of the close to 900 families that are part of The Woodlands community, will get the equivalent in arsenic of 63,000 packets of cigarettes per day for all the years of the redevelopment of the golf courses.
Do you want your family or you to be a victim of arsenic poisoning?
Call, write or e-mail the City Commission to vote NO on 13th Floor’s project at the special meeting on October 27th at 6 pm.
Mayor: Mayor Michelle J. Gomez firstname.lastname@example.org District 2: Commissioner Mike Gelin email@example.com District 1: Commissioner Marlon Bolton firstname.lastname@example.org District 3: Vice Mayor Elvin Villalobos email@example.com District 4: Commissioner Debra Placko firstname.lastname@example.org
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(1) U.S. EPA. 1984a. Ninety-day oral toxicity study. Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances. Fiche No. OTS0509954.