Locals and State at Odds Over Possible Pediatric Cancer Cluster in Indiana
The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) announced that despite growing concern for a possible pediatric cancer cluster in one Indiana county, a state investigation found no evidence of such a cluster as widely reported.
The state’s announcement contradicts the argument made by the group “If It Was Your Child” which tracked 50 cases of child cancers in Johnson County since 2008, with 23 of them reported in one town, Franklin. If It Was Your Child believes there is a cancer cluster in Indiana while the state argues otherwise.
Kari Rhinehart and Stacie Davidson started If It Was Your Child after their loved ones suffered from pediatric cancer. Emma Grace Findley, Rhinehart’s 13-year-old daughter died of a rare form of brain cancer, and Zane, Davidson’s stepson, was barely able to overcome leukemia. The group collaborated with the Edison Wetlands Association (EWA), a non-profit environmental group, to investigate cases of pediatric cancers in the county.
The EWA organized environmental testing at homes close to two sites. One site is an EPA Resource Conservation and Recovery Act site and the other is an EPA non-priority Superfund site. ASuperfundd site is any land that has been contaminated in the U.S. and could potentially pose a health risk to nearby residents.
Test results found higher levels of radon in six homes, higher levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) in two homes and one home showed higher levels of tetrachloroethylene (PCE). TCE is a known carcinogen, and PCE is likely to be carcinogenic according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
The ISDH reported while they found cases of pediatric cancer in their investigation, the rates of cancer they found in Johnson County were within the normal range.
“ISDH thoroughly investigates all suspected cancer cluster concerns reported by the public, and all investigations are done in collaboration with the relevant local health department. ISDH did investigate concerns about pediatric cancers in Johnson County and found no evidence of a cancer cluster. As part of that investigation, we identified a total of 123 cases of cancer in people under age 20 between 2001 and 2015 in Johnson County. It’s important to note that this number represents all cancer types and was within the number of cases that would typically be expected for that time frame,” said the ISDH in a statement.
Both the ISDH and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) said they had not yet received the full report from the EWA study. ISDH refused to comment until they had reviewed the EWA study while the ISDH said, “We have requested, and look forward to receiving, the full report so that our staff can fully evaluate its findings.”
The EWA announced they were in talks with the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the EWA’s findings further.
“EPA on the call with us on Tuesday they expressed that they would like to work cooperatively with the Edison Wetlands Association along with the local community groups to address these ongoing environmental issues in Johnson County and Franklin,” said Shannon Lisa, a director with EWA.