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The Acreage Investigation Points to Elevated Cancer Levels

Aug 31, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Recent Study of Cancer in the Acreage have Prompted the Florida Health Department to Launch

People living in one Florida community may be experiencing elevated levels of cancer, the state health department says.   According to The Palm Beach Post, the findings of a recent study of cancer in The Acreage have prompted the Florida health department to launch a second phase of their investigation.

As we’ve reported previously, residents of The Acreage have been concerned about a cancer cluster since several children living in close proximity to each other were diagnosed with brain tumors. People in the area have speculated that a nearby Pratt & Whitney jet engine plant and/or citrus groves in the area, which used potentially dangerous pesticides for decades, may have tainted well water in the area. There were also concerns about soil contamination.

Earlier this summer, residents’ concerns prompted the Florida Department of Health to begin a study of cancer rates in the area.  The results of the first phase were unveiled on Friday.  According to the Palm Beach Post, investigators found 1,369 cases of all types of cancer between 1995 and 2007. A similar-sized area elsewhere in Florida could be expected to have 1,055 cases in that time, the Post said.  The report revealed six cases of brain cancer in children 14 and younger from 1997 to 2007.  Of those, three were diagnosed in 2008, the report said.

Report was not clear as to whether or not the findings pointed to the existence of a “cancer cluster”

The Post is also reporting that while water testing conducted by the State Department of Environmental Protection  (DEP) found that water in 48 residential wells  met drinking water standards, a sample of untreated water at Seminole Water Plant showed "a minor exceedance” in the naturally-occurring radioactive element,  radium 226.  The finding prompted the DEP to run additional tests of all five wells that supply the Seminole Water Plant, the Post said.

The health department report was not clear as to whether or not the findings pointed to the existence of a “cancer cluster” in the community.  However, the department has now decided to launch a second phase of its investigation of cancer rates in The Acreage.  According to the Post, this new phase will involve recalculating cancer rates using more recent population estimates and verifying if any particular brain cancer is more common than expected. Residents also will be interviewed about other risk factors for pediatric brain cancer, the Post said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, a cancer cluster is defined as a greater-than-expected number of cancer cases that occurs within a group of people in a geographic area over a period of time. Cancer cases are more likely to represent a cancer cluster if they involve (1) one type of cancer, (2) a rare type of cancer, or (3) a type of cancer in a group not usually affected by that cancer, such as a cancer in children.

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