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Second air quality test shows no short-term risk to West Side residents

Kayla Sosa



“They’re talking about this as lifetime exposure levels, but if you live here you’re thinking on the terms of every breath you take. You think about your grandkids, every breath they take.”

That’s Larry Conkle, who has lived down the street from Viant Medical for the past 20 years. After hearing about the emissions at a neighborhood meeting, he and his wife became concerned for their family’s health.

Last year, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality expanded testing around Viant Medical Inc, according to MDEQ’s Issue Summary for Viant. The manufacturer had already received multiple pollution permit violations due to elevated emissions of Ethylene oxide, a carcinogen, or cancer causing agent.


Grand Valley State University has done several rounds of indoor air quality testing on their Pew Campus. The recent second round of testing also expanded to the Raleigh J Finkelstein Hall on Michigan Street.


The state tested alongside GVSU, and expanded beyond the surrounding area of Viant into other parts of the West side, and Grand Rapids.


Ed Aboufadel, of GVSU, says the tests were consistent with the first round.

“It’s at a safe level and we do not see any risk to our employees or students,” Aboufadel said.


Residents on the West Side of Grand Rapids, however, could potentially see a much greater health risk. Jenifer Dixon is an Air Quality Liaison with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.


She says there is no short term risk but the long term effects may still be unknown.


“These numbers are a snapshot in time, right. So, they give us information, but they don’t tell us the whole story,” Dixon said.


A cancer study is currently being conducted on toxic air pollution coming from multiple locations, including a landfill, in the West Side area. Dixon says those results will give a more clear indication of health risk.

Kayla Sosa is a general news reporter for WGVU Public Radio.