ACDOH’s statement that residents in neighborhoods surrounding Koppers do not have an increased risk of cancer is irresponsible and misleading.

5 Jun

ACDOH’s statement that residents in neighborhoods surrounding Koppers do not have an increased risk of cancer is irresponsible and misleading, and not only because of the cited study’s limitations noted by Dennis or, as Kline states, because the negative result is not a guarantee. The Cabot/Koppers site was not added to the federal Superfund program overnight or because of a whim on the part of the EPA. The NPL is reserved for the most malignant of sites posing a risk to public health. The Superfund/NPL designation was conferred here only after many decades of residents’ protestations and complaints of unusual numbers of illnesses and deaths, not just from cancers, but from conditions including and not limited to, respiratory diseases, immune system ailments, thyroid disorders, miscarriages and birth defects. The implication that contamination from the Site does not pose a health risk to Gainesville’s families only serves to lull residents into a false sense of security. We do not need reassurance or a coverup- we need an honest cleanup and relocation from our highly toxic homes. Hundreds of residents testifying over several decades give the lie to the official line that there’s no health risk. Finally, what’s more valuable: our money or our lives?

DOH report:

DOH: Koppers neighbors at no greater risk for cancer

Doug Finger/Staff photographer/file
The dead end of 444 NW 30th Ave. in Gainesville is shown on May 9. The Cabot-Koppers Superfund site is located over the fence.
By Chad Smith
Staff writer
Published: Friday, June 3, 2011 at 11:47 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 3, 2011 at 11:47 a.m.

There is no evidence to suggest neighbors of the Cabot-Koppers Superfund site in Gainesville are at an increased risk of developing cancer, according to a Florida Department of Health analysis released Friday.

Anthony Dennis, environmental health director for the Alachua County Health Department, a division of the state Department of Health, said the study was the first to examine the cancer risks for residents of the Stephen Foster neighborhood who live near the Superfund site.

The Stephen Foster Neighborhood Cancer Review compared numbers of cancer cases in that neighborhood’s census tract with the rest of the state between 1981 and 2000.

“The environmental data, the health consultations that we’ve done — there’s been three or four based on soil-concentration data that we’ve been able to look at, and I have to say to date — have not indicated a significant risk to health,” Dennis said.

According to the 22-page report, there were 447 cancer cases in the Stephen Foster neighborhood census tract observed over those two decades, while state data suggested 521.2 cases were to be expected.

Dennis said when more detailed census information is released later this year, the department would analyze cancer cases through 2008.

He said there are limitations to the study, such as the fact many people have moved in and out of the area over the past few decades, making it difficult to track whether residents left with cancer that could be attributed to the Superfund site or whether people moved in with pre-existing conditions.

Pat Cline, technical adviser for Protect Gainesville’s Citizens, a group of residents advocating for a stringent cleanup of the site, said the report was a good first step.

But Cline said she hopes experts at the University of Florida examine the data and mine them further.

“I’m glad they did it, and I think it’s good that they didn’t find anything for the things that they looked at,” she said. “There may be work needed to be done to reassure people.”

Residents who live near the Koppers site, comprising former wood-treatment and charcoal-production plants northeast of the intersection of North Main Street and 23rd Avenue, have long claimed the contamination found there has given them, family members and pets cancer.

On Thursday, some residents went to City Hall to say that commissioners were not doing enough to pressure the federal government, which is in charge of the cleanup process, to protect residents from contaminants.

“We have not one leader standing up and defending the citizens,” Maria Parsons told commissioners.

Commissioners have worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — as well as Sen. Bill Nelson — when and where possible, but they have said the cleanup is in that agency’s hands.

Cline noted that the report came from a statistical analysis, not a medical one in which conditions such as smoking, family history and other ailments would be considered.

“It’s comforting because if something really jumped out strongly, it would be very alarming,” she said. “However the negative result — and they even specify in here a lot of their caveats — is it’s not a guarantee.”

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