Focus of Suspected Florida Cancer Cluster Study Shifts to Radon

Radon could be at the root of a possible <"">cancer cluster in one Florida community. Now, according to the Palm Beach Post News additional tests are planned to determine if radon is the cause of the alleged cluster of cancer cases in Florida’s The Acreage. The Palm Beach County Health Department will schedule radon testing in homes of about one dozen families in which children were recently diagnosed with either brain tumors or brain cancer, said the Palm Beach Post News.

The 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 or brain cancer. Earlier this summer, residents’ concerns prompted the Florida Department of Health to begin a study of cancer rates in the area. Most recently, we wrote that two more children in The Acreage were diagnosed with brain tumors; a report that came at the same time that an investigation into a possible cancer clusters there was gearing up.

According to the Herald, the two children are not part of the cancer cluster study. But the health officials will note new cases reported to the Florida Cancer Data Registry, which gathers reports of tumors from physicians statewide. The Miami Herald noted that the latest brain tumor victims in The Acreage are a 13-year-old girl and a boy the same age. The girl, who had been suffering from headaches, had a tumor removed before Thanksgiving. The boy’s tumor was discovered after he suffered a seizure and underwent surgery to remove the tumor in December.

Meanwhile, the results of the first phase of the investigation were unveiled in late August. According to the Palm Beach Post, investigators found 1,369 cases of all types of cancer among residents in The Acreage between 1995 and 2007; six cases of brain cancer were reported in children 14 and younger from 1997 to 2007, of those, three were diagnosed in 2008. The second phase began earlier last month, and health officials interviewed the families of 13 children previously diagnosed with cancer. All were younger than 18 when diagnosed with a brain tumor or brain cancer from 1993 to 2008.

Regarding the new tests, Tim O’Connor, spokesman for the county health department, a division of the state Department of Health said, “We’re not pinpointing and saying this it,” quoted the Palm Beach Post News. The tests should be completed over the next few weeks following interviews with families in The Acreage. “The primary focus would be to answer further some radiation questions that keep coming up,” O’Connor said, quoted the Palm Beach Post News. The results of radon testing and information on the interviews are expected to be released by county health officials at a community meeting next month; the Florida health department is expected to finish and discuss information from the second phase thereafter, said the Palm Beach Post News.

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. As we reported previously, tests on wells conducted by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) did not reveal any toxins, but tests on four wells did reveal levels of alpha particles, radium-226 or radium-228, that exceed drinking water standards. Radium-226 and radium-228 are naturally occurring radioactive metals that could cause cancer at elevated levels. The four wells in which elevated levels of radium-225 or radium-228 were detected did not appear to be near the locations where residents have reported brain cancer in children. The DEP said the contamination may require homeowners with affected wells to install water treatment systems. Ground water in the community was deemed safe by the DEP.

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