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article imageHazardous waste sites in Florida may be linked to cancer

By Tim Sandle     Mar 9, 2017 in Environment
Tallahassee - There are several environmental factors associated with an elevated risk of cancer. One area that is receiving attention is the disposal of hazardous waste (such as waste from industrial sites). New results from Florida suggest a concerning connection.
One reason for running the new study in the U.S. state of Florida, is because the area has the sixth highest number of hazardous waste sites. Some of these depositories fall under the term ‘Superfund sites’ (where there are 77 in the state). Superfund is a U.S. federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants.
In parallel to the relatively high number of waste sites, Florida has the second largest number of new cancer cases in the U.S. While there are different causes of cancer, one science group wanted to assess if there was a demonstrable link between cancer cases and Superfund sites.
Researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine and the University of Florida were concerned that hazardous waste sites impact on human health (as well as altering ecological systems). Explaining the context, lead researcher Professor Emily Leary said: “We reviewed adult cancer rates in Florida from 1986 to 2010. Our goal was to determine if there were differences or associations regarding cancer incidence in counties that contain Superfund sites compared to counties that do not.”
In terms of the outcome, the scientist adds: “We found the rate of cancer incidence increased by more than 6 percent in counties with Superfund sites."
To show this the researchers used cancer incidence data made available by the Florida Department of Health. An analysis of this, with a focus on adult cancers, revealed cancer clusters (high incidences of cases). With the analysis no distinction was made with the type of cancer.
The results revealed:
Differences in geography (so-called spatial, differences);
Differences in gender;
A clear association with Superfund sites.
While an association was seen, the researchers indicate that further study is needed in order to assess the direct danger (or otherwise) to people living close to Superfund sites.
The new study is published in the journal Statistics and Public Policy. The research paper is titled “Superfund Locations and Potential Associations with Cancer Incidence in Florida.”
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