Despite dismissals, residents fear ‘cancer cluster’

CARLSBAD — Carlsbad residents have noticed an alarming increase in cancer cases in their community in recent years, leading them to suspect a possible “cancer cluster” in the area.
Despite reassurance from county health officials that no such cluster existed, residents were persistent in drawing attention to their concerns.
When county health officials agreed to host a forum to address the issue, residents hoped to get answers regarding the increase in cases. Instead, attendees at the April 28 meeting at Calavera Hills Middle School found little more than outdated data and vague responses to their questions.
“We want to know what you’re going to do with our soil, our water, our air,” said Stacey Quartarone, who lost her 16-year-old son Chase to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “These people are here to support families that have lost children, and they don’t want to lose their children.”
After presenting more than an hour of basic epidemiology information, state cancer expert Dr. Thomas Mack said that there was “nothing unusual in the city of Carlsbad.” Based on the most recent statistics from 2007, he also stated that there has been an “average number of cases near the power plant.”
This information was not sufficient enough for the audience, who made several comments about the old age of the data. Quartarone and her husband, John, have personally compiled statistics that show more than 250 recently documented cases.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg — I can prove to you there is a cluster here,” Quartarone said. “And yes, it is the power plant.”
Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, who proctored the event, intervened and reassured the audience that the county is taking action to address the situation. The first step is to gather more recent data, which they plan to do with a soon-to-be launched website that will allow residents to document the necessary personal information.
“Obviously we’re going to have to do a do-over,” Wooten said. “We need to assess what the cases are and then determine if those numbers are higher than would be expected.”
Wooten stated that once the information has been analyzed, the county could then come back to the community and provide more answers. Only then can they determine if there is a need for soil, air and water testing, she said.
To assist in the process, the Quartarones have also launched their own website — www.carlsbadcancerconnection.com — where residents can provide information about local cancer cases. They have already received data regarding 265 cases and expect to hear more because, as John Quartarone said, “there is definitely a pattern here.”
“I urge everyone to get on the website and we’ll make sure it gets to the proper authorities,” he said.

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