CARLSBAD — State health officials reported June 28 that, after another look at Carlsbad’s cancer statistics, there is no evidence suggesting a “cancer cluster” in the area.
The review of census tracts surrounding Kelly Elementary School and Encina Power Plant, compared to others in the state, did not uncover an above average rate of cancer.
“We have not found anything unusual which we can’t explain in some way,” Dr. Donald Lyman of the Department of Public Health said.
Researchers looked at more than 8,000 cases of cancer occurring between 1996 and 2008 to compile their report. Lyman noted that epidemiologists did see a higher rate of melanoma in the area, which can be explained by Carlsbad’s location on the coast.
Officials also looked at 323 additional cases found in a community survey led by concerned residents. Around half of them were sufficiently reported for review and did not indicate a higher than normal rate of cancer, Lyman said.
A thorough review of Carlsbad’s cancer cases was prompted by months of community activism led by John Quartarone, whose son Chase attended Kelly Elementary and died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Quartarone and other residents have pushed for soil, air and water testing at Kelly Elementary School, where they believe that something on the school grounds has caused more than 25 cases of rare cancers found in teachers and students.
“We need to come together and find a solution to this,” Quartarone said.
School district officials have said they were waiting for a review of Carlsbad’s cancer statistics before determining whether to move forward with soil, air and water testing at several Carlsbad schools.
Although Monday’s report did not suggest anything unusual, District Superintendent John Roach recognized that residents were still concerned and that testing will be done if approved by the school board.
Quartarone and other residents have previously attended community forums and school board meetings to get approval for the testing they believe needs to be done to rule out the possibility.
“Until the soil, air and water testing is done, we do not know if a risk exists,” Quartarone said at a recent school district meeting. “This is an issue of concern to all parties involved.”
The group has offered to pay for the testing out of their own pockets, which they estimate would cost $15,000, said resident Travis Burleson. His daughter, Jennifer Jaffe, teaches at Kelly Elementary School and was also diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.