A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigation into possible environmental causes for a string of childhood cancer cases in West Salem, Ore. has turned up no contamination or other issues.
“It’s really odd for us to come in and see low or no levels of contamination,” Tony Barber, of EPA’s Portland office, told parents of the children in a private meeting Tuesday night.
EPA plans to publicly release its report today.
The agency agreed to the study in December 2012, in response to a public petition, after 17-year-old West Salem High School student Lisa Harder died of osteosarcoma.
At least four other West Salem youths have been diagnosed with the same type of bone cancer in recent years.
In June 2013, an EPA contractor took samples at Walker Middle School, West Salem High School, Orchard Heights City Park, Wallace Marine Park and the field at Seventh and Patterson streets. Control samples were taken at Minto-Brown Island Park.
The samples were tested for a long list of contaminants. Investigators also tested for the presence of radium, found in some drinking water sources, that has been connected with osteosarcoma.
One site, Orchard Heights Park, did have higher-than-expected levels of semi-volatile organic compounds, EPA officials said. The city of Salem and state Department of Environmental Quality will decide whether to do further testing or cleanup there.
But the levels are not high enough to cause concern, and certainly not to cause osteosarcoma, said Jae Douglas of the Oregon Health Authority.
State Rep. Vicki Berger, R-Salem, vowed to keep pressure on officials to keep looking for a cause for the cancer cases.
“Nobody in this community is going to walk away from this,“ she said. “Why would we? How could we?“
Go to StatesmanJournal.com to read an updated story about the meeting.
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