Cancer Cluster near Chicago?

January 5th, 2009 | Sources: CBS News

A thousand people live in McCullom Lake Village and 14 of them have developed brain cancer. That’s between 2 and 20 times more than would be expected based on the reported incidence of brain cancer in the general population.

Just a case of bad luck?

“Absolutely not,” according to Aaron Freiwald an attorney who represents local residents in lawsuits against the multinational chemical company Rohm and Haas.

The billion dollar company has operated a production facility in McCollum Lake Village since 1963. The plant produces everything from pesticides to plastics, and byproducts of these processes cause cancer.

Rohm and Haas admits it dumped toxic byproducts into an 8 acre pit on its property for 20 years before ceasing the practice in 1979. There was nothing illegal about that practice at the time.

This May, the county tested 14 of the town’s water wells for contamination. They all came up clean.

To which the residents counter that no testing was done back when Rohm and Haas was dumping the chemicals. “They knew that there were chemicals in there – that they were dangerous,” Freiwald told CBS. 

And besides, there are more than 14 wells in town.

Meanwhile, it’s possible there’s a second brain cancer cluster at a Rohm and Haas plant in Philadelphia, where 12 research scientists died of the disease in the past 30 years. Five of them worked along the same hallway. 

“That could be a coincidence,” Dr. Phil Lewis told CBS.

Lewis, the chief of medicine at Rohm and Haas added that the company conducted internal investigations in 2002 and 2007, and had in fact concluded that the events at McCullom Lake and Philadelphia were just bad luck.

But the company has commissioned an independent study just-in-case.

“I’m about, let’s keep the people well, right? And if there’s something that’s wrong that’s out there that caused them to get sick, let’s find out what it is and deal with it,” Lewis said.


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