CARLSBAD — Fearing a possible cancer cluster in their community, a group of Carlsbad residents have explored every avenue to draw attention to their concerns.
The citizens’ group believes that carcinogens located on and around Kelly Elementary School could be causing the increase in cancer cases. John Quartorne, the group’s leader, has documented more than 250 cases within three square miles of the property.
In their most recent move, the concerned residents urged the Carlsbad Unified School District at its June 9 meeting to approve testing of the Kelly Elementary School property.
“Until the soil, air and water testing is done, we do not know if a risk exists,” said Quartarone, whose son Chase attended the school and died from cancer. “This is an issue of concern to all parties involved.”
Parents and teachers fear that without testing to confirm their suspicions, more and more schoolchildren and staff will be put at an unnecessary risk. The group’s survey has found that in just 10 years, 18 students at the school have been diagnosed with cancer.
“Of that 18, four have deceased and seven are really sick and being home schooled,” Travis Burleson said.
Past and present Kelly Elementary School teachers have also been diagnosed with cancers at what the group says is an alarming rate. Both Jennifer Jaffe and Pat Slattery taught at the school and have fought aggressive and rare forms of cancer. They worry for the school’s students.
“This teacher’s heart, although perhaps affected by 13 rounds of chemotherapy, strives every day to reach out,” Slattery said. “This teacher’s heart breaks when she’s realized that school could be the safety factor.”
The county and school board have not taken immediate action to test the school because Carlsbad’s cancer statistics do not express anything unusual, said Dr. Thomas Mack at a recent community forum.
Concerned residents who have watched loved ones suffer said they believe the cancer registries are not accurate, and should not be used to determine whether testing should be done.
“I worry the reporting is not up to date,” Slattery said.
Although the residents offered to pay for the testing out of their own pockets, the school board was unable to approve testing because the issue was not an agenda item.
“We are not going to go away,” said Burleson, who has been speaking out on behalf of his daughter, Jaffe. “We’re going to pursue this and we’re going to exhaust every governmental procedure we can.”
To learn more about the grassroots organization’s efforts, head to www.carlsbad cancerconnection.com.