Cancer Cluster

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The Issue

In the early 1970’s, a cancer cluster was found in the town of Rutherford, New Jersey. There had been 13 cases of leukemia and 9 cases of Hodgkin’s disease in between 1973 and 1978. This issue was first brought to light, when parents of students from one school district (Pierrepont School) realized that there had been several cases of leukemia and Hodgkins disease (Garfinkel). A mother found her self in a hospital in New York with her son who was being treated for leukemia. At this hospital she found another woman, also with her son who had leukemia as well. There, they also found out that the two not only lived in the same town, but only lived a few houses apart from one another. Both of their boys also had attended Pierrepont School before being struck with cancer. In 1976 one of the boys died at the age of 9 and the other at the age of 12 in 1977. After this issue was brought about, it was discovered that within the time frame of five years, 13 cases of leukemia included both children and adults. 6 of the 13 who were suffering from cancer were children ranging from ages 5 to 19. According to The Day, a newspaper article at the time, this was 6 times the national average rate considering the age group. At the time, Rutherford was populated with about 20,000 people. The article states that at this time period 13.5 cases of leukemia would be expected but, what makes this a great concern is the age group because cancer is rare in children. In the other cases of the Hodgkins Disease, the 9 adults were adults who lived far away from Pierrepont school. According to the article, considering the population was only about 20,000 people at the time, made the cancer 3.8% above what is expected from such a small population. Besides the cancer itself, the main problem I see is that Rutherford did not keep a cancer registry. The town had no records of any victims of cancer. Therefore, they had been unable to distinguish how and where the cancer clusters could...
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