Many epidemiologic studies have found that residences near landfill sites are associated with increased risk of adverse health effects (low birth weight, birth defects and certain types of cancers). Massachusetts, one of the most populous states in the U.S. and with the longest settlement, has a lot of houses near waste landfill – from active, inactive to closed. GeoHome, a big data startup for real estate, ran an analysis combining The Warren Group’s housing data, land use survey history and information from the Environmental Protection Agency, and found the following interesting patterns.

All figures referenced are for properties sold between January 2012 and September 2015. “Brownfield” is an urban planning term used to describe land previously used for certain industrial or commercial uses, which can contaminate the land.


18.45 percent of houses sold are within a half mile of waste landfills, either active or closed. Single-family houses are the safest category and multifamilies, especially condos with four to eight units, are 1.5 times more likely to be near brownfields than single-family houses.


Houses with a big price tag are more likely to be environmentally safe – houses less than $400,000 are three times more likely to be near a waste landfill than houses higher than $1.6 million.




Houses near brownfields are cheaper. On average, houses near brownfields are $38,000 less expensive than houses otherwise in the same town; the difference is statistically significant at 5 percent level.


As pertains to brownfields, Cambridge is not clean; 35.8 percent of all homes sold are within a half mile of waste landfill. Contrary to the general trend that single-families are safer, buying a condo is safer than buying a single-family in Cambridge. Only 31 percent of sold condo units are close to landfill, while over 50 percent of two-family houses and over 45 percent of single-family houses in Cambridge are close to landfill.


The five suburban cities with the highest percentage of houses near brownfields are Chelsea, Quincy, Watertown, Winthrop and Canton.

Town Percent of Houses Sold Near Landfill
Chelsea 73.21
Quincy 52.42
Watertown 49.31
Winthrop 42.93
Canton 41.34


The five suburban towns with lowest percentage of houses near brownfields are Dover, Wellesley, Brookline, Westwood and Needham.

Town Percent of Houses Sold Near Landfill
Dover 1.93
Wellesley 3.84
Brookline 4.45
Westwood 5.97
Needham 8.34


To see additional information from GeoHomes on this analysis, click here.

Xiaowen Yang may be reached at or (617) 4318416.

Is Your Home Near A Landfill? If You Live In Massachusetts, Probably.

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min