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Per the requirements of the Comprehensive Emergency Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund), ATSDR completed a public health assessment (PHA) on the area of Fort Detrick proposed to be placed on the US EPA’s National Priority List for long-term cleanup. ATSDR’s report on the Fort Detrick Area B Groundwater evaluated estimated exposures to the maximum measured TCE and PCE concentrations found in private drinking water wells around the Area B site. ATSDR concluded that these exposures were unlikely to produce any harmful health effects, including cancer. ATSDR’s Public Health Assessment estimated the TCE and PCE exposure doses to residents of those houses by using the maximum measured concentrations of the chemicals in 1992 (when potable use of the wells ceased). Evaluation of these contaminants and estimated ingestion doses of TCE and PCE for children and adults lead to the following conclusions: a) "Harmful effects are unlikely for users of the contaminated private wells based on maximum measured concentrations of PCE and TCE (cancer and non-cancer health effects). b) Residences with contaminated wells are currently being provided with alternate water. Current exposure to VOCs at these locations is limited to incidental use of the wells for irrigation or other outside uses. These exposures are unlikely to result in any harmful health effects. The full ATSDR report can be found here: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/HAC/pha/FtDetrickAreaBGroundwater/FortDetrickPHAFinal12-09-2009.pdf
When trying to determine whether a group of cancers is due to chance alone, or is a true “cluster,” some of the questions that should be asked include: (a) Is this the same type of cancer, or is it many different types?; (b) Are the cancers occurring in people who typically get this kind of cancer, or are these cancers happening in people who don’t typically get this type of cancer?; (c) Are the cancers occurring in people who are known to have a specific exposure?; (d) If an exposure is suspected of being related to a cancer, is there a reasonable period of time between when the exposure happened and when the cancer happened (because chemicals that are known to cause cancer typically take several years to several decades between when the exposure happens and when the cancer is finally apparent)?; and (e) Are the cancers common cancers, or are they very rare types of cancers?
The Maryland Cancer Registry is an ongoing registry since 1992, and the data are used for many different purposes. For example, data are used to look at the numbers and rates of cancer by type of cancer, race, ethnicity, age, gender, and geographic residence. In addition to all of its other responsibilities, the Registry provides data to the counties, which use the data to target cancer surveillance, screening, and prevention activities in conjunction with local health care providers and organizations. The review of state cancer data, to determine whether any particular area has more cancer than would be expected under normal circumstances, is a complicated task that requires additional resources beyond the other activities of the Registry and the health department. However, both the state and county health departments are committed to providing resources to this review of Registry data, because of community concerns.
The Frederick County Health Department conducted a Community Health Assessment in 2007 by surveying Frederick County residents. Participants were asked about a past diagnosis of non-skin cancer and modifiable risk factors associated with the development of cancer. The responses were then reported out separately for respondents from Central Frederick County, Northern Frederick County, and Southern Frederick County. The full Community Health Assessment can be found at http://www.frederickcountymd.gov/index.aspx?NID=2371 .For more information: Question and Answers about Cancer Clusters (Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene) http://fha.maryland.gov/pdf/cancer/mcr_combined_cancer_cluster.pdf
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene began its preliminary investigation using data that was already collected by the Maryland Cancer Registry. The initial cancer investigation is being conducted to answer questions and concerns that have been raised by Frederick County residents about cancer in the area, and proceeded independently of any ongoing issues related to environmental remediation at Fort Detrick. As additional concerns are raised as a result of this preliminary investigation and any future investigations, they will be addressed by the Frederick County Health Department, working together with the appropriate state and federal agencies.