2008.08.25 – Federal agency confirms presence of rare cancer

BREAKING NEWS: Federal agency confirms presence of rare cancer afflicting Ben Titus Road residents

Staff Writer
Published: Monday, August 25, 2008 10:43 PM EDT

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry on Monday confirmed something that residents of a 15-mile radius at the intersection of Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne counties have felt sure of for many years — that an unusually high number of people living there are suffering from a rare blood cancer.

In a public meeting held Monday at Genetti’s Best Western Hotel in Hazleton, the ATSDR released the final results of a two-year study that confirmed a statistically significant number of polycythemia vera cancer diagnoses in an area surrounding Ben Titus Road between Tamaqua and McAdoo.

The study also identified two smaller but still statistically significant PV cancer cluster areas: one south of Frackville in Schuylkill County and one near Jim Thorpe in Carbon County.

On the heels of the ATSDR report, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved $262,000 for the Drexel University School of Public Health of Philadelphia to investigate the northeastern Pennsylvania PV cancer cluster.

The ATSDR report found three environmental similarities in common in the cluster areas: hazardous waste sites, air pollution sources, and coal mining operations. However, the study did not pinpoint which, if any, of the three environmental commonalities might influence PV. Exploration of the possible environmental link will commence with the Drexel University study.