Interviews in The Acreage Cancer Probe Now Underway

Families of more than a dozen children diagnosed with brain tumors in The Acreage, a community in Palm Beach, Florida, will soon be getting visits from state health workers. According to a report on, the visits are part of an investigation aimed at determining if there is a <"">cancer cluster in The Acreage.

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 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. 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.

The Florida 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 decided to launch a second phase of its investigation of cancer rates in The Acreage.

According to, the second phase is underway, and health department workers have already visited three families in The Acreage to administer a lengthy interview which includes questions on immunizations, types of food eaten and international travel. Workers are also surveying land around the homes. The investigators hope to find a common link between the children that could explain why they have all developed brain tumors.

One major concern many residents of The Acreage have is that radiation could be tainting their water supply. 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 where 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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