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Cancer Cluster At The Acreage Moving Toward Litigation

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 5:02 PM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: The Acreage, Erin Brockovich, Radiation, Brain Cancer, Cancer, Environmental Health, Jet Fuel, Chemical Solvent, I, 4-dioxane, PCBs

The Acreage cancer contamination has attracted three law firms to tackle the mystery and give residents some relief.

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IMAGE SOURCE: Palm Beach Post Web page/ site of contamination at The Acreage

Three law firms are beginning the process of signing up clients considering legal action as the cancer cluster in the Acreage neighborhood of Palm Beach County remains a mystery.

Residents of the semi-rural area claim there are higher than expected levels of brain tumors or brain cancer among children living there.

Among them, the parents of Garrett Dunsford.

The six-year-old was diagnosed with a brain tumor, one of as many as 70 families that are suffering among the community of 50,000.

In August, the state health department said that the levels of cancer could be elevated, but noted that data includes outdated population figures.

That began a second phase of study by the state including interviewing families of children with brain tumors or brain cancer.

Last month, advocate Erin Brockovich held a town hall meeting to begin gathering information in preparation for the lawsuits. Brockovich is best known for the Oscar-winning movie,

starring Julia Roberts, about Brockovichs’ crusade against toxic water pollution in California.

Now a consultant, Brockovich is aligned with a New York City law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg that has been investigating the possible environmental causes of cancer at The Acreage.

That firm has teamed up with Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, a law firm based in West Palm Beach (and an IB Partner). The Romano Law Group of Lake Worth has also signed up six young adults with different types of cancer and is awaiting the results from a Colorado-based environmental assessment of the site, reports the Palm Beach Post.

Weitz and Luxenberg and Searcy Denny are focusing on the radiation danger in the area.

The firm has taken Geiger counter readings of radiation at 10 homes with cancers. Radiation is known to cause brain tumors and the state says some homes in the area have well water with radioactive substances and elevated levels of radium.

Radiation can occur naturally in the ground. The state has not tested for radiation caused by man-made activity but did test 50 private wells at random and found four wells didn’t meeting state drinking water standards for radium or alpha particles, a measure of radiation.

"Some of this can't be explained by naturally occurring sources," said attorney Lemuel Srolovic. “You can’t just assume all radioactivity in the community is naturally occurring.”

He said additional tests pointed to man-made manipulation of radium and the two law firms believe there may ultimately be three defendants, none a “government entity” said Mara Hatfield, an attorney working with Searcy Denny.

The Suspects

Many eyes are focusing on Pratt & Whitney, the rocket and jet engine company that worked nearby on Beeline Highway and is responsible for leaks and spills on its 7,000 acres dating back 30 years.

In the 1980s the company has its own on-site cancer scare and is cleaning up petroleum in the groundwater as well as various metals and volatile organic compounds, and a chemical solvent the company used, which is a likely human carcinogen, called 1,4-dioxane, jet fuel, and PCBs.

Clients do not have to pay a law firm to get involved but work with them on a contingency fee basis, meaning when the case is concluded and there is an award, the law firm gets a percentage. If the lawsuit is not successful, the firm does not get compensated for attorney hours, environmental testing, and the experts it has paid as consultants.

"They wouldn't be putting all of this time and effort into the situation out here if they didn't think something was wrong," said Jennifer Dunsford, the mother who requested the state study. #


3 Comments

Anonymous User
Posted by John
Sunday, November 22, 2009 2:28 PM EST

You guys need to check your facts befor writing their are only 13 cases spread out over 16 years hardly a cluster.

Anonymous User
Posted by Dr. Amin
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 9:06 PM EST

A cancer cluster means that a specific area [zip codeor county or ... etc.] has an elevated cancer rate. A cluster is statistically significant based on a likelihood ratio test if the "cluster" cannot be attributed to chance. Usually, cancer rates are adjusted for age, race and sex.

Quite often it is not easy or even possible to pin point the environmental cause(s) for the elevated cancer risk, even if they existed.

Anonymous User
Posted by Jake
Sunday, December 27, 2009 5:00 PM EST

When the river sounds you should pay attention!

Comments for this article are closed.

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