Clarendon to begin air tests near schools this week

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(Host) Clarendon FIRST plans to begin air testing at the town’s elementary and high schools in the next few days. Clarendon FIRST, which stands for Families Interested in Researching Sickness Together, was formed last year to raise concerns about the high rate of cancer in the town.

VPR’s Nina Keck has more.

(Keck) Clarendon has 19 times the national average for ALL, a type of leukemia; and 11 times the national average for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Jackie Fenner, one of the founders of Clarendon FIRST, says air testing in the elementary and high schools will target pesticides.

(Fenner) “The state had done some testing back in March of just the elementary school. And the testing came back pretty clean and we somewhat expected that because they are not spraying in March, they are spraying in May and June, etc. So that, we thought, was a baseline test for us to compare testing results from this time of year.”

(Keck) Fenner says they’re paying for the tests with state money. In addition to $15,000 for Clarendon, state lawmakers also created a pool of funds totaling about $400,000 for other communities with environmental health risks. Alyssa Schuren works with the Toxics Action Center, a non-profit organization that helps those communities.

(Schuren) “What that means is that they finally have a place to go to where they can say, this is what’s going on in our community, will you help fund an investigation?”

(Keck) Schuren says they have a much clearer picture of the environmental health threats in Clarendon. Public Health experts at Boston University are also analyzing data from 500 health questionnaires filled out by Clarendon residents. That information should be released next month. Jackie Fenner says that while they may not have uncovered a smoking gun yet, she feels all the ground work will help keep the community safer.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck.

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