Cancer Clusters in Florida: the Silence of the State

June 8, 2015

A CounterPunch Special Investigation

This is a story about pediatric cancer clusters in Florida. It begins in Durham, North Carolina at Duke University where Dr. David Banks is a professor in the Department of Statistical Science.

In 2013 Dr. Banks was the new editor of Statistics and Public Policy, a journal of the American Statistical Association. In early February, Banks gave a speech to the Florida Chapter of the ASA at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. There, he met with Dr. Raid Amin, a distinguished statistics professor at the university.

Three years earlier, a team led by Dr. Amin had published a paper, “Epidemiological Mapping of Florida Childhood Cancer Clusters.”

Dr. Amin’s statistical analysis of pediatric cancers in Florida – from the years 2000 to 2007 – concluded that there are significant cancer clusters in two large areas of Florida: the southern region of Florida and in northeast Florida. That struck one of the most sensitive nerves in state government.

Its publication was lightly reported in the press, but to state officials charged with monitoring public health, it followed in the highly publicized wake of two claims of pediatric cancer clusters, one in Port St. Lucie in the 1990’s and another in an unincorporated area of West Palm Beach called the Acreage in 2009. Even today, reading the plaintive cries for help from aggrieved parents is heart wrenching. Read the rest of this entry »

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Of Fetuses and the Everglades: Mercury Flows Downstream

July 6, 2011

The conservative right deploys right-to-life as its battle cry, but when it comes to rallying against environmental pollution that is arguably a greater threat to fetuses than abortion, the right is silent. With a few exceptions, there is hardly a whisper from the pulpits about organizing to protect the unborn by rallying congregations to support tougher anti-pollution laws and candidates for public office who support them. Mercury exposure, for example, is known to cause deformities and developmental disorders. In Florida, mercury is as ubiquitous as sulfur thrown on sugar fields by billionaire farmers, flowing downstream to God knows where.

Southern Christians (I’m singling out Southern Christians, because this writer is from Florida) ought to recognize that the rights of fetuses are harmed by pollution. So why isn’t the conservative right deploying their message machinery to educate Southern Christians about the threats of environmental pollution to the unborn, especially since it is clear thatpollution is arguably a bigger threat to fetuses than abortion? Read the rest of this entry »


Toxics more valuable than democracy?

April 12, 2005

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Really? It is worth revisiting these cornerstones of our democracy.

Recently, three farm-worker families in a neighborhood of Immokalee gave birth to severely deformed children—one without arms or legs, one without the capacity to keep his tongue from sliding back into his throat, and one without a nose, an ear and with no visible sexual organs. The story was reported in the Palm Beach Post, “Why was Carlitos born this way?” Read the rest of this entry »