Some residents of Garfield will soon be asked to turn over their toenails.

Property of EC Electroplating in Garfield (YouTube)

Scientists need them to measure if people who live in Garfield near the  EC Electroplating Co. Superfund site have been exposed to hexavalent chromium.

It's a known carcinogen. For the past 30 years it's been in the ground in part of the city.

Researchers from New York University want to measure whether residents have been exposed to dangerous levels of chromium. The scientists say toenails grow slowly and retain chromium.
The contamination started 30 years ago, when thousands of pounds of hexavalent chromium-- the same stuff that sickened Californians whose story was told in "Erin Brockovich" -- leaked from a tank at the EC Electroplating Co., a factory surrounded on all sides by houses and apartments. The state started cleaning up the spill but stopped two years later. In 1993, chromium was found at a now-shuttered firehouse and later in homes.

The EPA designated the area as a Superfund site -- marking it as of the nation's most toxic uncontrolled hazardous waste sites -- in 2011, and officials cautioned residents to stay out of their basements to prevent potential chromium exposure. EPA officials removed chromium from the building and demolished it last year, and found that some tanks had holes in them, potentially releasing even more chromium into the groundwater.

Officials say the contamination has not affected the city's drinking water, which is drawn from an outside source. Instead, they worry that people could inhale chromium dust that has been found in basements where groundwater has leached in.

A plume of it has now spread three-quarters of a mile from the site and into a neighboring city.

Residents interested in participating should contact Bernadette Rexford at

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