Report finds increased cancer cases near St. Louis County creek

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ST. LOUIS – A local group says more and more evidence continues to pile up suggesting people who lived near Coldwater Creek have gotten cancer caused by nuclear waste produced and discarded during the Cold War.

The group, named “Coldwater Creek—Just the facts please,” started a Facebook page after noticing an increase in cancer cases among people in their late 30s and 40s who lived near the creek during their childhoods.

On Wednesday, the group released a report saying a survey of 3,300 people who had lived around the creek showed there were 202 diagnoses of thyroid cancer or conditions, 113 brain tumor cases and 39 cases of appendix cancer.

“You’re seeing so many cases of brain cancer and tumors. The appendix cancer numbers I think are just flabbergasting,” said Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, a group member.

Mallinckrodt Inc. produced nuclear waste in north St. Louis County in the years after World War II. Coldwater Creek that runs from near Lambert Airport through Florissant was contaminated with uranium, thorium and radium. Soil and water samples showed unsafe radiation levels in the 1990s, but the Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday said fewer than 10 percent were contaminated with uranium, thorium and radium.


Based on the information you know now, would you relocate if Coldwater Creek ran through your backyard? Share your thoughts.


Many people who lived in the area in years past have reported unusual cancers.

“Coldwater Creek—Just the facts please,” has more than 7,000 members. Another one of its members, Shari Riley, grew up in Florissant. She talked to News 4 in March, 2013, and recalled playing in Coldwater Creek as a child, finding crawfish “that were clear—you could see through them. Some had two heads.”

In 2010, Riley was diagnosed with stage 4 appendix cancer. She has since been given a clean bill of health, but said she knew of at least two dozen other appendix cancer cases from the area. Appendix cancer is rare, with fewer than 1,000 new cases in the U.S. each year.

“We would like some sort of a proper study done by the federal government or some other government entity,” said Schanzenbach.

Those who compiled the information met with the St. Louis County Health Department and representatives of the federal agency for toxic substances and disease registry.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in 2013 conducted a study of six zip codes near the creek, which runs through St. Ann, Florissant, Black Jack and Spanish Lake. A report found higher rates of some cancer but determined lifestyle factors like smoking and unhealthy eating habits are likely to blame.

Riley said the results of the study were “irrelevant, skewed. It’s almost an insult to people’s intelligence.”

Health department spokeswoman Gena Terlizzi at the time said any study has limitations. She said a study focused on residents of the area prior to cleanup would have to include not only those who developed cancer but those who were cancer-free.

The study used data from 1996 to 2004, after most of the radiation contamination had been cleaned up. Many of the people who were part of the study didn’t live there at the time of the radiation contamination, Riley said, while many who lived and played near contamination sites have since moved away.

The state report recommended increased cancer prevention and health promotion efforts because of the region’s higher-than-expected rates of breast, colon, prostate and kidney cancer.

 

Click here to view the full report. 

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