Cancer Cluster Mystery Part III, An NH1 News Special Report
CONCORD - There are lots of moving parts as the state takes on a serious health investigation. The uncharted territory means that there's no textbook approach to this kind of investigation. Parents are trying to stay patient as they wonder what has triggered rare childhood cancers along the state's Seacoast.
"There are a lot of environmental problems that I didn't know about," said Maki Pombo, a mother who lives in Rye. "I didn't know about the Coakley Landfill and the other landfills that were closed up in town, I didn't know really about the coal plant."
At least six children were diagnosed with either Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) or Pleuropulmonary Blastoma (PPB) and multiple children have died from these cancers. Parents are desperate for answers.
"Practices were put in place like unlined landfills and probably, you know?" Pombo said. "You hear stories about things that were dumped in the Coakley Landfill that maybe weren't documented."
Maki Pombo is a mother and spoke to us about a family in Rye whom is fighting the second round of RMS. She has watched the family’s nightmare plays out yet again. Dylan Carpenter, a Rye teenager had his RMS return this year, after a year in remission.
Some believe the Coakley Landfill in Greenland is to blame. It was the dumping grounds for waste in the Seacoast for decades before being capped in 1998. It was left off the initial state's report on this investigation but with the push from parents, the state will now test around the site for Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs). The chemical is linked to cancer and other serious health issues.
This comes after contaminants were found only miles away in well water near Pease International Tradeport, at a rate 12.5 times higher than the EPA recommendations, sparking a health advisory.
"These are emerging contaminants," said Jim Martin of the state's Department of Environmental Services. "It means it's something that the Environmental Protection Agency has been learning more about...We had a discussion with EPA scientists this morning so that we can get a better understanding of what research went into these health advisory levels."
The state said the research and science is constantly evolving and they are working to adapt, but in the meantime, parents are panicking and wondering if their child is the next one to be diagnosed in the pediatric cancer cluster.
"It will take decades before we know which ones are causing human harm and that's really unfortunate," said Rep. Thomas Sherman of Rye.
Rep. Sherman has been a very active advocate for the investigation. He said he's impressed with the amount of resources by the state, dedicated to finding answers. The testing and research here in New Hampshire could have a big impact globally.
"We're not going to stop," said Rep. Sherman. "We're going to keep looking and looking for that link."
Although what's causing the cancer is unknown, the state urges everyone to make sure the environment around their home is safe including water sources. Anyone with a private well should test their water every three years.
The link to information about how to test your well and what contaminants to look for visit: http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/dwgb/well_testing/