2009.05.22 – Is there a cancer cluster in Love Canal
Question: Is there a cancer cluster in Love Canal, Niagara Falls, New York?
By 1978, Love Canal became a national media event with articles referring to the neighborhood as “a public health time bomb.” On August 7, 1978, United States President Jimmy Carter declared a federal emergency at Love Canal, and those living closest to the site were relocated.
Scientific studies were not able to prove conclusively that the chemicals were responsible for the ill health of residents. Some scientists thought the chemicals were responsible. Other scientists thought that the evidence was inconclusive, although there was a possibility that the residents could be harmed but would be unable to prove it. There were eleven known or suspected carcinogens identified, one of the most prevalent being benzene. Geologists were recruited to prove that underground swales were responsible for carrying the chemicals to the surrounding residential areas. Once there, they explained, chemicals leached into basements and evaporated into household air. On May 17, 1980, the EPA announced the result of blood tests that showed chromosome damage in Love Canal residents. Residents were told that this meant they were at increased risk of cancer, reproductive problems and genetic damage. Other studies were unable to find harm.     
A reference cited:
^ Cancer incidence in the Love Canal area. Science, v. 212, June 19, 1981: 1404-1407. “Data from the New York Cancer Registry show no evidence for higher cancer rates associated with residence near the Love Canal toxic waste burial site in comparison with the entire state outside of New York City.”