Castine, Maine Cancer Rate Cause for Concern

The residents of Castine, Maine say that cancer is an all-too frequent occurrence in their peaceful seaside village. According to the Bangor News, the Castine Environmental Health Committee has identified 55 people in a town of 1, 390 people who have died or been diagnosed with cancer in the past five years. Though they have no concrete evidence, the committee believes this number is too high for such a small town and they are asking the state of Maine and the federal government to investigate what they call a “cancer cluster”.

The citizen’s committee wants to investigate two environmental factors they believe could be contributing to the Castine’s cancer rate. The first is <"">pesticides. Two of the town’s largest landowners, the Maine Maritime Academy and a local golf club, use pesticides, as do many of the town’s gardening enthusiasts. The golf club is of particular concern because it sets atop part of a watershed that is Castine’s primary source of drinking water. Town officials told the Bangor News that tests of the town’s water supply have never indicated a problem. But the committee says that those tests are done in December, when no pesticides are used.

The committee says it wants a pesticide-free Castine. According to the Bangor News, the Castine Environmental Health Committee has approached both the marine academy and the golf course about limiting or ending pesticide use, and has received favorable responses. The committee is also beginning a campaign to educated residents about pesticide dangers.

The other environmental factor that concerns the Castine Environmental Health Committee is the Callahan Mine in nearby Brooksville. According to the Bangor News, the former zinc and copper mine is an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site. The EPA has not yet determined if the mine poses a threat to people living nearby, but is expected to issue a report soon. The committee is afraid that runoff from the mine site might have contaminated Castine. The Castine Environmental Committee has a meeting scheduled with the EPA on Tuesday to discuss their concerns.

The Castine Environmental Health Committee has also gotten the attention of Maine state officials. Based on the data the committee has collected, the Main Cancer Registry has agreed to take a look at cancer rates in Castine to see if it qualifies as a cancer cluster. That will not be an easy task, however. There are between 100 and 200 forms of cancer, and different factors are known to influence different forms of the disease. What’s more, cancer can take up to 30 years to develop in a person, making it hard to pinpoint exactly what factors triggered the disease.

In addition to the Cancer Registry’s investigation, the town of Castine has decided to do its own investigation. The town recently appointed a biostatistical study group to gather information on cancer among the town’s citizens. The members of the Castine Environmental Health Committee are hoping that these efforts will shed some light on the town’s cancer concerns.

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