Tag Archives: Family

Pediatric Cancer Cluster in The Acreage

The Florida Department of Health confirmed that The Acreage in Palm Beach County is encountering a higher than normal number of brain and central nervous system tumors and cancer in children, especially girls.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and other state lawmakers are calling for a probe to determine the cause.   One environmental expert said that the cancer cluster did warrant national attention.

Health officials state that they may never be able to determine the cause.  Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, said that there are currently no plans to conduct environmental tests.

“We really don’t have one thing,” said Alonso.  “From what we’re seeing now, there is nothing that is going to say, ‘Aha this is the cause of the cancer.’”

Nelson said environmental tests should start “as soon as possible.”  He pledged to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get them to “lend their resources and expertise to the investigation.”

“Residents still don’t know a cause or what’s responsible for these cases of cancer,” Nelson wrote to Florida’s surgeon general on Tuesday.  “And we can’t work to fix the problem or hold someone accountable until we can answer these questions.”

“We need to give them the resources to make sure they can identify a cause,” said State Representative Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington).

Environmental tests will not occur until the department finishes analyzing the interviews over the next two months. 

Authorities have identified 13 cases of brain cancer or tumors among children and teenagers in the community from 1993 and 2008.

There was a significant jump in the number of cases after 2002 said Tammie Johnson, a state epidemiologist.  There is enough data available thus far to label these cancer cases a cluster.

Two more children were diagnosed with brain tumors in late 2009 generating fears that the cancer cluster is continuing to grow.

Homeowners should insist on federal assistance said Peter deFur, president of Environmental Stewardship Concepts in Richmond, Virginia.   He added that the CDC should conduct a health assessment which would include reviewing residents’ medical records and performing blood and environmental analysis.

The Acreage is a semirural community in northwest Palm Beach County.  As the name would suggest, homes are built on at least a single acre lot.  There are farms in the area and farm equipment is stored on those lots. 

Quick aside:  I looked at the area a dozen years ago about a year before my divorce.  I really have to say that I liked the rural feel of the community and loved the idea of hiring and working directly with the builder that would construct my home.   I suspect it is this reason that I have been watching this story develop.  My daughter was 6 years old when I looked at the community.

The state Department of Environmental Protection, which is not part of the cluster investigation, isn’t planning to conduct any tests, spokeswoman Cristina Llorens said Tuesday.  The agency randomly sampled 50 wells last year and declared that ground water quality in The Acreage was “generally good,” despite some elevated levels of radiation that could come from natural causes.

Excessive radiation can cause brain cancer.

Environmental concerns in the area:

  • Farm chemicals
  • Well-water quality
  • Pratt & Whitney toxic-cleanup site
  • Possibly contaminated fill dumped from other locations
  • Cell phone towers
  • Naturally occurring radioactive substances in rock

deFur said that The Acreage may be experiencing a “cumulative risk situation” where stresses on top of stresses exceed  what people’s systems can handle.

The fact the health department found a greater disparity in girls than boys raises a question of whether a hormone-disrupting chemical could be involved, he said.

“For everybody to have a comfort level, you need to know the source,” said Michelle Damone, board president of Indian Trail Improvement District.  “Without knowing the cause of it, how do you go and correct it?”

Next phases:

The state health department expects to complete the second phase of the study by mid-March, 2010.  They plan to conduct interviews with 12 of the 13 families and review the cancer rates using updated population data.  Note:  The thirteenth family could not be located as they have moved from the area.

If a third phase occurs, it may include environmental tests which would take up to one year to complete.

A fourth phase would be a large-scale federal or university-based project.

As mentioned earlier, additional studies are not currently planned.

“Everybody is exposed to a multitude of things,” said Becky Samarripa, whose 15-year-old daughter had a tumor removed in 2008.  Still, so many of these children went to the same schools, play in the same soil and drink the same well water that tests in at least one of those areas should be warranted, she said.

New York law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, affiliated with environmental activist Erin Brockovich, has been conducting water analyses since late last year. 


Public meeting:

Officials plan to discuss the investigation at a public meeting.

Date:           February 9, 2010

Time:          6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Location:   Seminole Ridge High School

                    4601 Seminole Pratt Whitney Road



Link to study:  Acreage SIR Recalculation Population Estimate Methods and Results

Cancer cluster designation rattles The Acreage

New data confirms Acreage cancer cluster; health official puzzled on cause of children’s ailments



Parent of a High School Graduate

There have been numerous times over the course of my life when I have felt old.  The first time my back gave out quickly comes to mind.   I also began feeling older when I gained weight even with diet and exercise.

But this past weekend put it into an entirely new stratosphere. 

My weekend kicked off on Thursday morning as I made the trek north to take my daughter to her college orientation.  This program goes under the guise of providing information to parents and students as they enter college.  What it really does is drive home the fact that I am closer to retirement than I am to entering the workplace.

When we arrived on campus, parents and children (that’s what they are) walked together toward the auditorium.  It felt like just yesterday when my parents brought me to my college orientation – now here I am partaking in a new family ritual. 

My problem is that many of these parents looked like parents or even grandparents while I still consider myself a 25 year old guy nowhere near old enough to have a child let along a college student. 

Of course, I probably look like many of these parents.  The appearance of age caused by time and worry in both my face and posture.  Time, I can do nothing about.   Worry, on the other hand, caused by money, family health and of course, parenting.   I won’t even begin to discuss my weight.

These same children who brought me joy, happiness and laughter have also provided me with stress, loss of sleep and wrinkles.  {I’d take that deal any day.}

Some of the orientation schedule paired the kids with the parents.  Those sections felt like pep rallies with give-aways, speeches by athletics coaches and bullhorns, bullhorns and more bullhorns.

With the kids on their own to tour the campus, meet with advisors and fill out schedules for summer and fall, the parents had their own presentations.  We heard about financial items, campus life, what our children will expect and we toured the campus, including the dorms.  

Parents had their own give-away.  A couple of presenters began throwing what appeared to be t-shirts into the crowd.  I caught one of the last ones tossed.  Upon grabbing it, I found that it was lighter and had the wrong material to be a t-shirt.  I opened up my new possession and discovered it to be a laundry bag with the school name on it.  It’s something the kids need but they knew enough to give them to the parents.

After 2 days – yes, this went on for 2 days – parents, whom I didn’t know, asked me if I felt the program was too long.  I did, especially during the hour long financial discussion when my jimmy-legs started acting up.  I needed a walk badly.

I have 2 more trips planned to the university this year.  Later this month, I take my daughter to school and help her move into the dorm and get settled for the summer term.  This trip will be the most exhausting and emotional vacation of my life.  It is a weeklong trip where I say goodbye to my daughter for about 6 weeks – the longest I have ever been apart from her AND it is a college tour trip where I take my son on a 5 day – 5 college tour covering 1,500 miles in Florida. 

The other trip is in August where I move her in for the school year.  More stuff, longer time apart and more emotion.  It concludes with a 5 hour drive home . . . alone.

*  *  *  *  *  *

My weekend continued on Saturday – after arriving home from the university, I attended a high school graduation party for my daughter’s boyfriend.  It turned out to be a very nice evening even though I was thoroughly exhausted.

My weekend concluded with Graduation Day!   I literally ran all over town before the graduation {too much to include here} and I was ready for a nap {another sign of age} even before the 3 pm start time.

Since this school has the largest graduating class in the country – over 1,200 students – I knew this ceremony would be L-O-N-G.  Pomp and Circumstance took a while as all twelve hundred students entered the arena to take their seats.  There was about an hour of pre-speeches – the principal, school board members, the valedictorian and salutatorian and a video of well-known people providing well-wishes to the graduating class. 

I brought reading material to keep me occupied during the long announcement of names but found that I was more interested in the kids reactions than I was in my book.

The realization of life as an empty nester (which is a year away) is now in my mind.  My daughter will now mostly only look to me for money and advice.  I know she’ll still appreciate the little things – like the small complement but as she prepares for college in a new city, it has become clear to me that my full parental requirements are no longer needed. 

My daughter has proven to me that she is ready for the challenge of living on her own.  Rather than dwell over this, I will attempt to celebrate this as a job well done by her parenting team and everyone else who touched her life, but most of all – my daughter.  She has developed maturity well beyond her almost 18 years and has tremendous poise.

I will miss seeing her on a regular basis but I look forward to hearing from her with updates as she experiences some of the best years of her life.

My 2 Buck$