Senate Panel to Discuss Disease Clusters Identified in Thirteen States

An environmental group “will tell a Senate panel Tuesday that it has identified 42 suspected clusters of cancer, birth defects and other illnesses in 13 states,” McClatchy reports.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, working with the National Disease Clusters Alliance, wants to step up the federal response to investigating suspected clusters. The 42 clusters — either confirmed or under active investigation — are in Texas, California, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Delaware, Louisiana, Montana, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. The groups plan to look at all 50 states.

A specific source of chemical contamination — asbestos — was identified in only one of the 42 clusters, in Libby, Mont. But the group notes that in many communities, such as Camp Lejeune, N.C., “the case grows stronger that documented exposure to toxics has harmed the health of community residents.”

The NRDC will testify Tuesday before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, along with environmental activist Erin Brockovich and Trevor Schaefer, a 21-year old survivor of brain cancer from Boise, Idaho. He and his family have created Trevor’s Trek Foundation to fight childhood cancer.

Committee chairman Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo — the top Republican on the Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health Subcommittee — are co-sponsoring legislation aimed at helping communities determine whether there’s a link between elevated levels of illness and contaminants in the environment.

The NRDC, which surveyed the 13 states to determine the scope of complaints, backs the bill and said it hopes the hearing will draw attention to communities like three in Florida: the tiny Tallevast neighborhood in Manatee County, Palm Beach County’s Acreage and Collier County’s Immokalee, where residents have also reported unusual rates of disease.

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