Friday, August 10, 2007

Cancer cluster confirmed near coal-burning power plant in Delaware

(The following article is from Dr. Dante Picciano's Web site. To read more about my analysis suggesting a link between waste-coal-burning power plants and polycythemia vera in Pennsylvania, click here.)


August 10, 2007

The State of Delaware has confirmed a link between a coal-burning plant and an increase in cancer among exposed residents. The Delaware News Journal reports that years after citizen activists first asked the state to investigate the problem, the Delaware Division of Public Health has finally confirmed what the activists suspected: There's a cluster of cancer cases near a coal-burning plant, the state's worst polluter.

The coal-burning plant is NRG Energy Inc.'s Indian River complex and is located in Millsboro, Delaware. The study was conducted by examining the cancer cases in a six ZIP code area around the plant. The areas examined were Dagsboro, Frankford, Georgetown, Millsboro, Ocean View and Selbyville.

The Division of Public Health study showed an incidence of 553.9 cancer cases per 100,000 residents of this area between 2000 and 2004 compared with the Delaware state rate of 501.3 and the U.S. rate of 473.6 cancer cases per 100,000 residents. Thus, this study confirmed that the rate of cancer cases in this area is 17 percent higher than the national average.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory, coal-burning power plants in Delaware release large amounts of toxic hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, ammonia and hydrogen fluoride, along with lead, nickel and mercury compounds and other chemicals that may cause cancer or linger in human tissues or the environment.

No government study would be complete without a qualification blaming the exposed people. The Delaware study is no exception. In the study, the highest incidence of cancer among the exposed residents was lung cancer, which accounted for 19.5 percent of the cases. The Division of Public Health said that it is not sure whether the higher incidence of lung cancer could have been caused by tobacco or by people having moved into the area from a different environment.

The report also said that new state rules intended to reduce emissions "are a major step forward in providing a clean environment." With this, we agree.

Does any of this sound familiar? As you may know, citizen activists first uncovered an unusual cluster of polycythemia vera cases along the Ben Titus Road in the Still Creek area of Rush Township. Polycythemia vera is a rare bone marrow cancer.

Two cancer studies by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH) left the affected residents with little information of significance about the rates of cancer in the area or the cause of the polycythemia vera. The PA DOH attributed any increases in the incidences of cancer that did appear in its two studies to life style, specifically smoking and diet. The PA DOH was partially correct. The increases can be attributed to life style but in these studies the life style relates to living in an area contaminated with imported hazardous wastes and to being exposed to a toxic chemical soup.

A reporter, Sue Sturgis, from North Carolina has reviewed the PA DOH's data of reported cases of polycythemia vera by county for the years 2001 through 2003 and suggests a possible association between polycythemia vera and power plants that burn waste coal It is amazing to us that a reporter from North Carolina has done more investigating into the basis of our problems than the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Finally, a recent article reported that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), part of the federal Department of Health and Human Resources, is completing a study on the incidence of polycythemia vera in Carbon, Luzerne and Schuylkill counties. The article reported that the ATSDR has found an almost quadrupling of the incidence of polycythemia vera in the area.

The primary purpose of all government is to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. When will our government begin to protect our health, safety and welfare from the toxic emissions of coal-fired power plants? We are not asking that these plants be shut down but we are asking that our legislators stop giving these toxin-emitting plants licenses to pollute. We are demanding that they be operated in a manner that reduces the risks of toxic emissions for the people living near these plants.

*We thank Jill McElheney of the Ministry to Improve Child and Adolescent Health (MICAH's Mission:, P.O. Box 275, Winterville, GA 30683, for calling our attention to the study by the Delaware Division of Public Health.

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