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A Scary Reality — The Acreage Cancer Cluster


The way the numbers and facts are being reported is confusing.

The way some members of the community are responding to what is simply awful news is angering.

Some people are even calling the families “liars” who reported their concerns to the state.

Do such name-callers suppose that these families fabricated the number of brain tumors in the area?  The cancer cluster designation was based on the number of cases, not on the veracity of the families who dared to start the inquiry.

Let’s face it.  The Acreage has had some very bad news and there is little concrete information being provided. People are struggling with how to handle it because that’s a hard task.

The news is full of stories: an increased risk of cancer, childhood illnesses, childhood mortality, and yes, degraded home values.  None of these concerns are unimportant. It’s essentially the complete disintegration of what we call “home sweet home.”

But pretending that there is not a problem and calling those who are facing the staggering truth “liars” is an unproductive way to handle the news of the day.  It is a denial afforded by the lack of concrete information.

So let’s try a new perspective.

Yes, the newspapers and the state focus on the fives cases of female pediatric brain tumors diagnosed before 2007; this is a staggering number in particular because female brain tumors are rarer even than male pediatric brain tumors.

Let’s look at the time range that includes the first cases reported.  And let’s look at the environmental proximity, since that’s usually the focus of the inquiry into causation.    From 2005 to 2008, seven brain tumors were diagnosed within a 3.3 mile by 2.2 mile grid in the Acreage community. This is less than half the area described in the state study and includes only a portion of the population they are looking at.  The greatest distance between any two of these cases is 3749 yards.   The average case to case distance is 1894 yards.

This is how that time span breaks down:

There were 2 diagnosed tumors in 2005, separated by 1000 yards home to home.

Both of these cases are females.  (In other words, a very rare occurrence.)

In more important words, each of these cases is someone’s little girl.

There were 5 diagnosis occurring in late 2007 through 2008.

One of these was a male and all the others were females.  (In other words, still a very rare occurrence.)

In more important words, each of these cases is someone’s child.

It should be noted that  the closest of these homes is separated by a  distance of 1000 yards.

The diagnosis of the children was separated by 6 months.

Again, both of these very proximate cases were someone’s little girls.

Noone would expect to see four cases in three years, let alone 4 cases in 2008 alone.

Sure, you could broaden the geographic grid to the one as large as that on the state Department of Health web site.  After all, there were six more cases that I did not include in the numbers above, either because they fall outside the 2005-2008 time span or because they fall outside the smaller geographic grid I refer to.  4 of those were prior to 2008.  Two were after 2008.

So eleven cases of brain tumors in 2001-2008.  13 if you go to 2009… And none of these numbers considers the calls we are getting from families who have had a child diagnosed with a pediatric brain tumor within months of moving away from the Acreage.  (Not YEARS, months.)

And while each of the cases that I list so clinically above is someone’s child, and will always be someone’s child, not all of them are alive anymore.

So who is really lying to their community and who is simply lying to themselves?

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