Order amid Chaos

June 2000

When will government agencies get the full story about toxic chemicals released by Ciba Geigy?

TIC's at Ciba Geigy
(Tentatively Identified Compounds)

A three year old independent report recently surfaced which questions the work performed by the EPA and Ciba. The report states that they failed to adequately assess the amount of environmental contamination by dye related chemicals at the Toms River, New Jersey site, including both "tentatively identified compounds" and "non-target compounds". Dyes are often toxic and cancer-causing chemicals which pose a real risk to public health and safety.

The EPA's main method used to identify organic compounds in environmental samples is GC/MS. The GC/MS as used by the EPA can determine approximately 130 compounds referred to as "Target Compounds List" in circle #1 below. Chemicals not on the "Target Compound List" are referred to as (TIC's) Tentatively Identified Compounds or (NTC's) Non-target Compounds. Most of the contamination on the Ciba Geigy Site in Toms River, NJ consist of non-targeted compounds. The blue curve represents the limits that the EPA GC/MS instruments can detect.

Tic's at Ciba Geigy Superfund Site
Illustrated above is a representative image of two detection methods, GC/MS (Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry)
(Blue shaded area)
LC/MS (Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry)
(Yellow shaded area)

Vertical axis ( Y-axis ) is boiling point.
Horizontal axis ( X-axis ) is solubility.

Circle # 1 is a limited detection of all the chemical compounds that can be detected under the blue curve by the EPA instrument based on a library of comparison chemicals as set up by the EPA.

The second multi-colored circle (#2,3,& 4) represent approximately 156 different organic chemicals and 6 types of dyes that were produced at the Cibe Site.

Of these chemicals produced only 25 are in the EPA library for comparison detection, the portion labeled # 2 represents what could be detected.

Section 3 of the circle is the portion of TIC's that can be detected using GC/MS.

Section 4 of that circle represents those chemicals that are either too water-soluble or are too involatile and are referred to as "non-target compounds." These chemicals can only be detected using LC/MS or some other special method.

Why is this important?

First, of the 156 compounds only 25 are in the EPA data base library, so if all 156 compounds could be seen by GC/MS only 25 of 156 would have been identified correctly through EPA's library data base comparison. Thus up to 131 toxic chemicals may have been released but unreported.

Second, the report questions the treatment of contaminated groundwater at the Ciba site. Presently there is a pump and treat system that is in place that draws contaminated ground water from both on site and off site and processes the water through a treatment system and then discharges the treated water back to the surface on the Ciba site. Part of the treatment uses activated carbon (charcoal) to clean the contaminated water. The report states, "charcoal treatment does not remove the majority of the aromatic chlorinated sulfonic acids present." These chemicals could possibly be passing right through the treatment system. If these chemicals cannot be detected by GC/MS, the report continues, "we would not know if this is happening."

MOST IMPORTANTLY, "Ciba's Tentatively Identified Compound study is, in our opinion, so badly flawed that it is not useful for the Cancer Cluster study."

To ensure public safety we agree with the report's recommendations for additional soil and water samples and analyzing these samples by the appropriate methods. An independent peer review must be performed.

This is a necessity so we know what we are truly dealing with before the cleanup of the Ciba site progresses.

  • The next public meeting on the Citizen Action Committee on Childhood Cancer Cluster is June 12, 2000 at 7:00 pm.
  • The previous cover page can be found under "RESOURCES", Previous Month's Cover Pages.