Study: Cancer a Concern In Parts of Tonawanda

February 13, 2013 Updated Feb 13, 2013 at 10:44 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

February 13, 2013 Updated Feb 13, 2013 at 10:44 PM EDT

Tonawanda, NY (WKBW) - An industrial neighborhood in Tonawanda faces serious health concerns.

A study reveals bad news for some Tonawanda residents, who say they are fed up and ready to do something about it.

The study points to areas near the Niagara River as well as Sheridan Park with high rates of cancer and birth complications.

Residents from this area have long claimed that nearby plants are hurting their health.

Ronald Malec, a Tonawanda resident, says at times, "I'm sitting in the backyard enjoying nature -- and I wonder, should I really be outside at all?"

A study released by the New York State Department of Health now backs-up concerns of these residents.

The study shows increases in lung cancer and bladder cancer. It also shows higher amounts of esophageal cancer among men and uterine cancer in women.

It also shows higher levels of premature births, low birth rates and cardiac defects in infants.

The study reports respiratory problems border high levels too.

That's something Cristino Ortiz says his wife noticed within a year of moving to Tonawanda.

Ortiz lives near Sheridan Park "It wasn't like breathing regular air, I could actually smell whatever it was coming out of there."

Ortiz, who says he worked at Tonawanda Coke last year, adds that he started noticing respiratory problems shortly after taking the job

"It wasn't like breathing regular air," Ortiz says. "I could actually smell whatever it was coming out of there."

The report does not point any fingers, but the Tonawanda Coke plant has been fined and punished for polluting the air in that part town.

Bill Scheider, an Epidemiologist, says "There are plenty of chemicals that have been known to cause health effects. And some of those health effects have been pretty well established."

The Clean Air Coalition say the problem is town-wide.

"Tonawanda has one of the highest concentrations of air polluters in NYS," says Erin Healey, the group's Executive Director. "We have a coal plant, a coke plant, several petroleum distribution terminals, many chemicals."

Residents who say they never met so many sick people until they moved to Tonawanda say it is time for change.

Ronald Malec adds "this is not just some cry babies wining about their health. It's a real fact."

There will be a community meeting February 26th at the Sheridan Park Community Center at 6:30 in the evening to discuss the study.

The study does emphasize it does not directly link the plants to these health problems, but it certainly is a concern.

Some of these problems can also be caused by other issues, including smoking and lack of health insurance.

Tonawanda Coke, which the study mentioned as having high levels of chemicals, declined to comment.