Missouri residents seek solutions to Coldwater Creek cancer clusters

Friday, March 14, 2014 by: L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
Tags: Coldwater Creek, cancer cluster, Missouri residents

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(NaturalNews) Radioactive waste spills and heavy metal pollution are silent killers that can persist for decades in the environment and go unnoticed as the cause of cancer and degenerative disease. Even EPA and military cleanup crews can struggle for decades to remove penetrating contaminants like radioactive uranium.

In recent years, cancer clusters have been identified within specific regions in the United States. These cancer clusters are regions containing high concentrations of people who develop cancer and other degenerative diseases from chemical spills, radioactive waste and heavy metal pollution.

Coldwater Creek in North St. Louis County, Missouri, is proving to be one of these horrendous cancer clusters, and thousands of residents are now seeking answers.

According to one resident of the county, Jennifer Smith, as well as 20 others from her area, the cancer cluster may have impacted over 3,000 people whom they connected with and questioned through social media.

Radioactive uranium from Coldwater Creek destroyed their health

Smith's horrendous medical history began when she was a teen. After suffering from endometriosis as a teenager, she experienced four miscarriages in her 20s. By age 29, she had undergone a complete hysterectomy. Then, in her young 30s, she was diagnosed with incurable chronic myelogenous leukemia. Now, at age 41, Smith, along with other residents of the Coldwater Creek area, are tracing their horrific medical conditions to an environmental contaminant that was silently ravaging their health. The source came from Coldwater Creek, the waterway running through North St. Louis County. The water and its sediments contain EPA-confirmed contamination of radioactive uranium from a World War II factory spill. The creek, loaded with radioactive uranium, would often flood and carry toxic water into the vegetable garden of Smith's family. Once, the flood cascaded into her basement bedroom.

Smith, who now battles leukemia, says she will need to take oral chemotherapy for the rest of her life to deal with her disease. Adamant to bring awareness and hurting for solutions, Smith is collaborating with other victims in the area, saying in an ABC interview, "I'm willing to fight the battle. It's worth fighting."

Health professionals struggle to make official connections between radioactivity and cancer clusters

According to the Missouri health department and the military, the radioactive waste is real and found at high levels today in the North St. Louis County area. Cleanup efforts continue decades later. According to health officials, linking uranium exposure to the rising cancer rate is hard to do.

"These things are very hard to prove," said Dr. Reginal Santella, who co-leads the Cancer Epidemiology program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center with Columbia University. Many variables are involved, like how the individual is exposed and how long it takes for them to be diagnosed with cancer. It can take years to make an official connection.

Thousands come together online to make correlations between radioactivity and cancer

Still, current and former residents of the Coldwater Creek area are coming together online and making connections. Many have connected through a Facebook group. In 2011, 43-year-old group leader Janelle Wright started realizing that many of her childhood friends were dying at a young age.

"There were four cases of brain cancer in a six-house radius," Wright said. "That was really weird."
She recalled the death of her music teacher, who passed away from leukemia, and her grade school crush who died of thyroid cancer. She compiled an entire list of deceased childhood friends and schoolmates. When she was searching online, she came across the Facebook group "Coldwater Creek -- Just the Facts." She and 20 other suspicious residents joined the group right away, as they connected dots and medical mysteries. Now there are over 9,000 members.

Military fact sheet unveils dire situation, cleanup efforts

The online group soon discovered that radioactive waste was still being cleaned up in North St. Louis County by the Army Corps of Engineers. Radioactive uranium, radium and thorium, linked back to the Manhattan Project, had been contaminating the environment since the 1940s, as seen in this official military fact sheet.

The contamination is so severe that cleanup has been placed as a top priority with the EPA. The area, now on the EPA's National Priorities list, has contaminated soil, sediment, surface water, groundwater and adjacent structures. The confirmed presence of radioactive particles explains the delay of cancer incidents by at least one generation. Second generation problems are more prevalent when radioactive waste is involved.

So far, Wright and the group investigated 3,300 total instances of cancer coming from the area, including high numbers of medical rarities. They have found 95 brain cancer and 37 appendix cancer cases.

"They're killing 50,000 people in Hiroshima with this stuff," Wright said. "What do you think it's going to do with us?"

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