Born too soon
The Chronicle of Higher Education - 07/28/2014
Soon after Cordero’s return, two engineers appeared at his door. One, Ingrid Y. Padilla, was a slight, wry hydrologist from a west-coast campus of the university; the other, Akram N. Alshawabkeh, an expert in groundwater remediation, came from Northeastern University. They told Cordero that Puerto Rico has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of Superfund sites, those peak indicators of contamination. Much of the pollution is found on the north coast, west of San Juan, where decades ago pharmaceutical companies, spurred by tax incentives, set up shop. After those tax breaks expired, in 2006, the manufacturers fled, but their waste lingered.
The engineers had their eyes on a Superfund-focused research grant at the National Institutes of Health. Surely this chemical waste must pose a health risk, but they were at a loss to say what, or how. Cordero had just the problem for them. His team had looked at the risk factors for preterm birth, and none explained Puerto Rico’s high rate. Could it be something in the water?