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High cancer rates occur near St. Louis creek contaminated with nuclear waste; government says no connection, blames cancer on 'poverty'

St. Louis

(NaturalNews) Unfortunately, when the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs over Japan, the Japanese weren't the only ones that suffered immediate and long-term adverse health effects. During the early 1900s, atomic bomb production took place at more than 30 sites across the U.S., the United Kingdom and Canada.

In the 1940s, St. Louis, Missouri became home to the largest war industry plant in the U.S., which at its peak employed 35,000 St. Lousians and produced more than $1 billon rounds of ammunition each year. In 1942, Mallinckrodt Chemical Company, located in the northern part of the city, began refining uranium used in the Manhattan Project, coordinated by a group of scientists committed to developing a viable atomic bomb.

Mallinckrodt Chemical Co. extracted uranium and radium from ore before processing the elements. From 1946 through to the 1950s, radioactive byproducts were disposed of in a 22-acre open storage site near the midwestern city's airport. In 1973, some of the waste was illegally dumped at the West lake Landfill.

WWII nuclear production linked to rare cancers in Missouri

The nuclear production also contaminated areas surrounding Coldwater Creek, which runs from St. Ann to the Missouri River through Florissant, Hazelwood, Black Jack and Spanish Lake.

Today, surveys conducted by the Missouri health department reveal high rates of cancers, many of them rare, in north St. Louis County, an area close to where nuclear production took place.

Gail Vasterling, director of the state's health dept., is asking the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to "explore the possibility of a connection between cancer rates and environmental hazards in North County," reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

A 2013 survey [PDF] by the state health dept. concluded there weren't higher risks of cancer types related to radiation exposure among people living near the creek, and instead blamed any higher cancer rates on "poverty and poor health."

However, the 2014 state report [PDF] documents high rates of leukemia, breast, colon and other cancers in the areas surrounding Coldwater Creek, which was contaminated by nuclear waste after World War II.

The latest survey added seven years of cancer data through 2011, more rare types of cancer and two ZIP codes nearest the radioactive West Lake Landfill. Newly added data identified 455 cases of leukemia reported in the area from 1996 to 2011, 44 more cases than would be expected in the population over that time period, according to reports.

Ionizing radiation exposure causes DNA damage, which can lead to cancer, particularly leukemia

Leukemia is one of the most common cancer types to develop after radiation exposure, which typically occurs within two to five years, however, other types like myeloma, can take up to 15 years to develop.

High rates of brain and nervous system cancers among kids 17 and younger were found in the 63043 ZIP code near the landfill. Seven cancers of these types in that age group were reported from1996-2001, compared with an expected two and half cases based on the state's estimated average.

Children's parents in an elementary school in the 63043 ZIP code say cancer among students and staff has recently increased, pushing the state to perform a separate disease investigation at the school.

After noticing a cancer spike among classmates now in their 30s and 40s, alumni from a nearby high school began their own survey, which found more than one-third of 3,300 current and former residents of north St. Louis County have developed cancers; more than 40 of which are rare appendix cancers.

While state health department investigators were unable to conclude if radiation exposure caused the cancer spikes, the CDC may conduct a more thorough examination, hopefully providing answers for St. Louis residents, and ideally, introduce safety mechanisms to keep future generations safe.

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