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Dirty Knowledge
08-12-2009, 05:14 PM
Potential Cancer Cluster Investigated Near Pratt In Florida

Public health officials in Florida (http://www.courant.com/topic/us/florida-PLGEO100100400000000.topic) are investigating a potential brain cancer (http://www.courant.com/topic/health/diseases/cancer-HEDAI0000010.topic) cluster in a residential community near a Pratt & Whitney facility in West Palm Beach (http://www.courant.com/topic/us/florida/palm-beach-county/west-palm-beach-PLGEO100100412240000.topic) and expect to release early findings later this month.

A vast Pratt-sponsored study of brain cancers among its Connecticut employees, begun in response to concerns about workers at a former plant in North Haven, is now in its eighth year.

The Florida Department of Health began its inquiry in May, after a request from a single household in The Acreage, a community of 50,000 residents in Palm Beach County (http://www.courant.com/topic/us/florida/palm-beach-county-PLGEO100100412000000.topic), according to Michelle Dahnke, a department spokeswoman. The Acreage is about 6 miles from Pratt's space propulsion and jet engine test facility.

Other Acreage residents also fear that chemicals from the Pratt operation have contaminated their well water, according to reports in The Palm Beach Post and posts on a blog called theacreagecancerstudy.com/.

No cause has been established for The Acreage cancer cases, however, and no link has been established to Pratt's activities in West Palm Beach (http://www.courant.com/topic/us/florida/palm-beach-county/palm-beach-%28palm-beach-florida%29-PLGEO100100412160000.topic), where the company has operated since the late 1950s. The Florida health department has not said how many or what type of cancer cases have been identified in The Acreage.

On Aug. 2, The Palm Beach Post reported a local estimate of at least eight cases of glioblastoma multiforme, a rare brain cancer, between 2004 and 2009, and more than 20 cases of various brain and nervous-system tumors since 1998.

Scores of Pratt workers in Connecticut have died of glioblastoma multiforme over decades.

In a statement Friday, Pratt said it is "not aware of any connection between Pratt & Whitney and the concerns in the Acreage area of Florida."

The statement continued: "Pratt & Whitney has a comprehensive program to protect the environments in which we do business and to ensure that our employees and our communities are safe."

The first part of the Florida health department's study is intended to determine whether there seems to be an increased rate of cancer, or a specific type of it, in The Acreage. The study will rely on existing health data. Results, expected this month, will "help direct the investigation into the next phases," Dahnke said.

Florida environmental protection officials this week began testing The Acreage's groundwater for a variety of contaminants, according to an agency statement on Wednesday. The statement says the agency is "not aware of any point source of pollution" of the community's groundwater, and says Pratt is in compliance "with all DEP hazardous waste regulations."

Results of the Connecticut study's first part, released last September, found a slightly higher rate of brain cancer among North Haven workers than for the state's population. But researchers said the difference was "not statistically significant" and could have been caused by factors unrelated to the plant.

Bill Gerrish, spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said Friday that he was unaware of any contact between his agency and investigators involved in the Florida inquiry. New results are expected in the Connecticut studies next year.

http://www.courant.com/business/hc-pratt-cancer.artaug08,0,6073257.story