Why Geographic Cancer Clusters Are Impossible to Prove

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Why Geographic Cancer Clusters Are Impossible to Prove

Geographic-based cancer clusters are nearly impossible to prove.

Danielle Bailey-Lash had agonizing headaches. The pain radiated from her neck to the top of her head and after weeks became so excruciating that she finally went to the emergency room. There, a scan revealed a tumor the size of a juice box on the right side of her brain. The then-35-year-old mother of two always prided herself on being healthy—she got plenty of exercise and never smoked or drank, so she was shocked to hear the diagnosis: Stage III astrocytoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer. Doctors told her she had six months to live.

“I was devastated,” says Bailey-Lash, now 41. After surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, Bailey-Lash is now in remission, but the brush with death prompted her to question why she got sick—and why so many others who lived in her sleepy lakeside community in Belews Creek, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, were stricken with cancer too.

The likely culprit seemed to be right in front of her: Just 100 yards from her house is a storage pond used by Duke Energy to collect waste from its coal-fired power plant 4 miles down the road. The man-made lake contains 4 billion gallons of coal ash slurry, a mixture of water and ash produced from burning coal.

According to an inventory Duke Energy filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for 2010, the plant released more than 800,000 pounds of toxic pollutants into the air, as well as 32,000 pounds of arsenic, 7,333 pounds of chromium, 4,000 pounds of cobalt and other toxic heavy metals into the pond, all of which residents worry is seeping into the groundwater. This is especially significant in Belews Creek, where many locals rely on wells for their drinking water.

Read Full Article: Why Geographic Cancer Clusters Are Impossible to Prove

Read Full Article: Why Geographic Cancer Clusters Are Impossible to Prove

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