State Looks for Cluster in Palm Beach County Community
The question now being circulated in the Palm Beach County, Florida community of The Acreage is whether or not there is a cancer cluster.
Joyce Gorring’s late husband was discovered with a rare Stage 4 brain tumor, gioblastoma multiforme, or GBM. She is just one of three widows who met recently to talk about their husbands.
While the estimates for this type of cancer are one of every 100,000, The Acreage has seen 8 adults and one child stricken.
But Florida’s Department of Health is having a tough time determining if this is a cancer cluster or not.
So far, there are nine cases of cancer reported in 13 years among the community of up to 39,999 people.
Is that a cluster?
Estimates are that 3 out of every 100,000 person will have a GBM diagnosis. Compare that to 157 of every 100,000 men who will get a prostate cancer diagnosis, and 123 of every 100,000 women with breast cancer.
An investigation by the state found six cases of GBM between 1997 and 2007. It stopped counting after that. The Palm Beach Post found an additional three cases, bringing the number of tumors in the community to at least nine.
The tumor has also been found in young people. Among the Acreage cases, six were younger than age 49, including a 29-year-old, a 20-year-old, and a young child.
Epidemiologists for the state say this is a random grouping and a cluster cannot be ruled in or out.
The survival odds for GBM are bleak. Half make it longer than one year and half don’t.
Pratt & Whitney
Pratt & Whitney, along with Sikorsky Aircraft are two divisions of United Technologies Corporation that design, manufacture and service aircraft engines at a Palm Beach County facility seven miles north of The Acreage. The company opened the facility in 1958 on 11 acres in northwest Palm Beach County.
The Department of Environmental Protection regulates the hazardous waste, storage tanks, petroleum cleanup, and pollutant discharge from the facility.
At a Pratt & Whitney facility in Connecticut the same GBM tumors were found in a cancer cluster. Florida was not included a the nine-year-long study even though the same chemicals are used there.
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.
It's been determined that 1,4-dioxane, did migrate off Pratt & Whitney property.
A couple has filed a lawsuit against Pratt & Whitley, blaming the defense contractor for the wife’s kidney cancer. The lawsuit says the chemicals used by Pratt & Whitney leaked into the water supply on its Beeline Highway property and spread the seven miles to the Acreage. Magaly Pinares developed renal carcinoma.
The Florida Department of Health says that water tests from the semi-rural area do not show contamination, but test rests on the soil should be released in July.
312 residents of the Acreage have filed a suit seeking class-action status.
Litigation consultant, Erin 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 also looking at radiation dangers in the area as 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.
"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.” #