State officials discuss cancer rates in Clarendon

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(Host) State officials promised on Tuesday to help Clarendon residents learn if toxic chemicals have caused a number of cancer cases in town.

Congressman Bernie Sanders called together officials from the Health Department, the Agency of Natural Resources, and the Human Services Agency to discuss the Clarendon situation. After the meeting, Sanders said he was pleased with the response of the state officials.

(Sanders) “I think the meeting was an excellent meeting. We obviously had the folks from Clarendon here and we had various agencies of state government. And the goal is how we work together, both epidemiologically in terms of ascertaining how serious the problem, and number two what environmental factors may be contributing to the problem.”

(Host) A citizens group called Clarendon FIRST has conducted an unscientific door-to-door survey of residents to learn how many people have cancer in their town. They’ve learned from that survey that residents have 12.5 times the national average for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and 15.5 times the national average for leukemia.

Charles Smith, the secretary of the Human Services Agency, says the state will survey more residents to see if there’s a link between pollution in town and the high cancer rates.

(Smith) “Very good ground work has been started by the people in Clarendon FIRST. What they’ve done is they’ve initiated a study a study, really on their own, it’s on their own initiative and with their own effort to survey the town, and try to determine the range of, the number of households that have cancer presentations, the types of cancer etcetera. They asked for our help to try to reach out further and try to get a higher rate of participation among the residents in the town.”

(Host) Smith says Governor Jim Douglas is concerned about the situation in Clarendon. He says the state will also look at whether the cancer rates are higher in neighborhoods with hazardous waste sites.

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