Cancer incidents in North St. Louis County are not linked to Coldwater Creek. That's what a report the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services released today says.
State Health Department Investigation
Last month, Patch told you the state would be analyzing cancer clusters in North County as the result of local concern of increased risk due to nuclear contamination.
Gena Terlizzi with DHSS's Office of Public Information said local residents asked the department to look at instances. She also said the report only looks at Coldwater Creek and not any of the several dump sites that were in the area.
The State epidemiologists studied the incidence and death rates of 27 types of cancer in five zip codes adjacent to the creek including: 63031, 63033, 63034, 63042, 63134 and 63138. The study includes from 1996 to 2004 and concluded an increased risk of cancer from environmental hazards is unlikely.
Terlizzi said the 18 year time span was chosen for two reasons.
"We used 4 years on either side of the 2000 Census because when you look at cancer instance rates, you have to have specific population data as a base," she said. "The period around the Census is the most accurate population figure."
She also said because it can take time for cancer to develop, the time period was considered ideal.
"We understand (the 50s, 60s, 70s) is when people were commonly playing in the creek," she said. "But that's not necessarily the time when the cancers developed."
"The request that came to us was that people used play in the creek, so could we tell if there have been cancer instances more recently since that time."
Epidemiologists investigate the causes of disease and other public health problems to prevent them from spreading or from happening again.
Report's Stance on Cancers and Plausible Causes
Leukemia and thyroid cancers are most commonly linked to radiation, according to the report. Still, the state health department found leukemia rates in the area surrounding Coldwater Creek are the same as would be expected in a similar population. It also states thyroid cancer rates were lower than would be expected.
The zip codes do have higher rates of breast, colon, prostate and kidney cancers, but the researchers said those cancers are more likely linked to risk factors including diabetes, poor diet, smoking and a lack of exercise.
"As a result of this analysis, the DHSS cancer inquiry committee recommends the state and local public health agencies increase cancer prevention and health promotion efforts in the area," the report states. "Efforts should be targeted to promote healthy eating, regular physical activity and tobacco control.
"These actions are expected to have the greatest positive impact on cancer prevention in the community."
Coldwater Creek and the North County Contaminated Sites
The Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) began in 1974 to identify, investigate and clean up or control sites through the United States that had became contaminated from the nation’s early atomic weapons and energy programs during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Activities were performed by the Manhattan Engineer District (The Manhattan Project), or under the Atomic Energy Commission, prior to the Department of Energy being formed.
As a part of these projects, the U.S. government contracted the Mallinckrodt Chemical Company to use its downtown facility to extract uranium from ore so it could be sent to other facilities. The extracted uranium was then sent to other facilities for enrichment. This occurred from 1942-1957. The program covers multiple sites in the St. Louis area both in St. Louis County and in St. Louis City.
The St. Louis Downtown Site, (SLDS) is the source of the radioactive material. This location is where Mallinckrodt processed uranium for the U.S. government nuclear weapons complex. It was a 45-acre active chemical manufacturing facility located just 300 feet west of the Mississippi River.
The nuclear weapons' waste materials were stockpiled at several sites in North St. Louis County including at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. This site became known as the St. Louis Airport Site (SLAPS).
In the 1960s and 1970s, some of the waste material was sold to a private company, which transported the material to another location north of the SLAPS, and on Latty Avenue in the City of Hazelwood. This site became known as the Hazelwood Interim Storage Site (HISS).
Together, the North County FUSRAP site consists of the SLAPS, HISS and 78 vicinity properties known as SLAPS VPs. The U.S. Department of Energy was responsible for the remediation of the FUSRAP sites from the late 1970s until 1998. At that time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) became the lead on the project.
There have been more than 100 vicinity properties surrounding the SLDS, the SLAP and the HISS that require additional investigation to determine if contamination exists at concentrations requiring remediation. According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the total estimated volume of contaminated soils, sediments and debris are approximately 1 million cubic yards.
Parts of Coldwater Creek are also a SLAPS Vicinity property. The creek has been affected by runoff from the FUSRAP sites. Coldwater Creek passes through several north St. Louis County communities including Florissant, Hazelwood, Black Jack and Spanish Lake. It was contaminated with uranium, thorium and radium.
"Potential radiological contamination in Coldwater Creek can be attributed to runoff or windblown migration of the prior storage of uranium processing residues and wastes at SLAPS and at the HISS. The USACE removed the SLAPS and HISS wastes, which resulted from the ore-processing activities at SLDS. The USACE routinely conducts sampling in Coldwater Creek as part of the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program."
There are currently more than 5,800 active members of a community action Facebook Page devoted to investigating the possibility of a cancer cluster around the creek entitled: Coldwater Creek Just the Facts Please, as well as a Coldwater Creek blog spot.
Members of the group were doubtful the health department's study would reveal true results because it does not take into account the people who were potentially exposed to nuclear waste as children and young adults but have since moved away from the area, as well as for the time the waste was in the area prior to 1996.
"There has been concern that we only looked at people that lived in the area in the area in that 1996-2004 time period," she said. "We area using the scientifically accepted best practices for cancer incidents in the area."
Terlizzi said just because the 2000 Census was used for this report, doesn't mean the state couldn't look at the years surrounding the 1980 or 1990 Census if asked.
There are three lawsuits alleging exposure to radioactive waste the Mallinckrodt chemical company produced, is the reason for the health issues.
The lawsuits include groups of people from Hazelwood, Florissant, Spanish Lake, Berkeley, Ferguson, Black Jack and St. Ann.
The residents say nuclear waste was improperly disposed of near North County's Coldwater Creek in the 1950's and 1960's as part of The Manhattan Project. leading to the unusually high incident rate of rare cancers, birth defects and early deaths.
If you think your illness may be linked to the creek there is a form tracking all instances. To fill it out click here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/coldwater_creek_missouri
To read more on Coldwater Creek News:
- Coldwater Creek: State Health Department Investigating Cancer Cluster Instances
- Federal Judge Audrey G. Fleissig Names Lead Counsel In Coldwater Creek Litigation
- Radioactive Waste in our Groundwater
- Second Coldwater Creek Lawsuit Filed Against Hazelwood-Based Covidien and Its Mallinckrodt Division
- What People Near Hazelwood Are Saying About Coldwater Creek Nuclear Contamination
- MoDOT Closing Eastbound I-270 Lanes from Lindbergh Blvd. to I-170 Starting Friday
- Missouri Coalition for the Environment Hosting Public Meeting on West Lake Landfill Superfund Site
- Mallinckrodt Partners to Relieve Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis