Cancer Clusters And Waste Pits in Texas

In our article about cancer clusters and waste pits (“Cancer Clusters and Waste Pits – a Silent Epidemic”) we discussed the troubling situation in the area around San Jacinto River, Texas where waste from an old paper mill factory was dumped in a 14 acre area, contaminating the soil and water with dioxin – a known and deadly carcinogen.

For over 40 years, this sludge was slowly seeping into the environment and communities of eastern Harris County. The residents, many lower-income black families, had complained for years about an increase in cancer rates – and for years the State agencies conducted meetings and tests, and basically did little else to help solve the situation.

Over the last decade, the Texas Department of State Health Services published more than 260 cancer cluster investigations. In all those years, they have never recommended taking the next step of doing an epidemiologic study. These studies hope to determine patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in specified populations in a particular geographic area.

That suddenly changed when on June 19th, 2015 the agency published its report, the “Assessment of the Occurrence of Cancer – East Harris County, Texas, 1995 – 2012.”

This groundbreaking document cited a number of rare childhood cancers exceeding reasonable expectations, including gliomas (brain stem cancers), childhood lymphoma and melanomas, and cancer of the eyes – retinoblastoma.

Noting that “Observed numbers of several of the 17 cancers analyzed were statistically significantly greater than expected… DSHS will review these results with a group of subject matter experts to assess the feasibility of follow-up epidemiologic study.”

According to the original report:

  • Childhood Cancer cases were significantly higher: brain (2519), leukemia (2323), melanoma (2330), and glioma (2520).
  • Childhood retinoblastoma cases were also considerably higher than expected.
  • Cases of cancer to the brain, liver, and cervix among all ages were statistically significantly higher than anticipated in multiple tracts.
  • Both myeloma and lymphoma cases were notably higher in one census tract while pretty flat in another one. Also the number of female breast cancer cases was pretty higher in three, and statistically significantly lower in eight of the census tracts.

Map of Cancer Clusters in Texas

harris-county-cancer-map
As welcome as this report is, there is also a glaring shortcoming; it is not, according to the document “…intended to determine the cause of the observed cancers or identify possible associations with any risk factors.”

Bear in mind the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already designated these waste pits as a Superfund Site – an extremely polluted area requiring long-term actions for cleaning up hazardous contaminations.

However, any positive action is better than no action at all. At least the residents of this Harris County area will find out more than they know right now – and maybe receive some much welcome relief and aid in addressing these frightening cancer incidents.

Lawyers For Victims of Waste Contamination

If you think you or your family may have been exposed to the waste contamination in eastern Harris County, or have already been diagnosed with childhood or adult cancers, it is highly advisable to consult with an environmental injury attorney. Terry Bryant in Houston has been an advocate for helping Texas residents for 30 years in achieving just compensation and justice for their rightful legal claims.