McCullom Lake Cancer Cluster Trial Began This Week
The first trial of lawsuits over a cancer cluster in McCullom Lake, Illinois began this week in Philadelphia, after a number of residents of the small town developed brain tumors that were allegedly caused by a chemical plume in the groundwater.
Trial began on Monday in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court in a case brought by Joanne Branham against Rohm and Hass Co., which is based in Pennsylvania. Branham is one of 31 residents or former residents of McCullom Lake, Illinois, who filed a toxic tort lawsuit alleging that the high cancer rate in the small community is due to a chemical plant owned by Rohn and Hass, which purchased the plant from Morton International in 1999.
Morton International operated the plant for 50 years, and allegedly dumped toxic chemical waste into an unlined pit for 20 years, which could have contaminating local groundwater. Rohm and Haas was bought by Dow Chemical Co. earlier this year.
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Despite Rohm and Haas’ previous admission that it had dumped chemical waste from its plastic-making processes in the unlined pit, defense attorneys told jurors that the groundwater pollution and brain cancer cluster did not exist. They argue that plaintiffs’ attorneys are using what is known as the Texas Sharpshooter; drawing circles around random clusters of cancer and then claiming they are related. The analogy comes from a joke about a Texas gunman who would shoot up his barn at random and then draw a bullseye around the area with the most holes and claim he was aiming for them.
Residents of McCullom Lake will argue at trial that the cancer cluster is very real, and its unusually high rate of incidence points to the Rohm and Hass Ringwood plant. In some cases two or three neighbors in a row have been diagnosed.
The deadliest form of astrocytoma brain cancer is one of the more common forms of brain cancer diagnosed in residents there. Out of nine diagnosed cases, only one of the residents still lives.
McCullom Lake has a population of just over 1,000. The usual rate for brain cancer is seven cases for every 100,000 people. The state has refused to examine the case, saying that the town’s population is too small for a proper analysis.
Residents of another small town in Missouri have experienced a similar cluster of cancer, resulting in a number of brain tumor lawsuits that allege the problems were caused by a tannery distributing toxic waste sludge to farmers for use as fertilizer on their fields. At least 70 residents of Cameron, Missouri have been diagnosed with brain tumors in that community of 10,000 people.
MarjorieNovember 20, 2010 at 9:57 pm
While I think the McCullom Lake brain cancer cases constitute a genuine cancer cluster, I very much doubt that groundwater chemical contamination has caused it. If groundwater chemical contamination were causing cancers in the community, I'd expect to see a variety of soft-tissue cancers, most of them affecting organs other than the brain. This pattern is NOT what is being observed. The reporte[Show More]While I think the McCullom Lake brain cancer cases constitute a genuine cancer cluster, I very much doubt that groundwater chemical contamination has caused it. If groundwater chemical contamination were causing cancers in the community, I'd expect to see a variety of soft-tissue cancers, most of them affecting organs other than the brain. This pattern is NOT what is being observed. The reported brain cancer cases do demand an explanation, but--despite the geographic clustering of the cases in McCullom Lake--it is possible that their cause may be explained not by geographic proximity so much as by the socioeconimic and cultural homogeneity of the population of McCullom Lake over a lengthy period of time. A search for the cause of these brain cancer cases SHOULD be initiated, and since the local and state government agencies are not doing this, the residents of McCullom Lake ought to undertake the task. (They also ought to agree to let Rohm and Haas pay for testing of the wells for ground-water chemical contamination, in my judgment; I feel confident that the results of such testing will show little or no such contamination, which is apparently what Rohm and Haas also thinks.) Take note that if geographic proximity to a carcinogenic agent is NOT responsible for the apparent clustering of brain cancer cases, then occupancy of a house where previous brain cancers have occurred is NOT an indication of an elevated risk of a similar future brain cancer case in that house. (But this logic probably won't be convincing until a cause of the brain cancers has been identified.)
nancySeptember 23, 2010 at 4:41 pm
My mother died in 94 from brain cancer...she lived in McCullen lake in the 70's-80's.....This is unbelievable. So many people affected in the same way...in such a small area. My prayers for the people and families affected by this cancer. I have not heard of this before....I hope that if more people were dx'd with this cancer...they come forward to get the people who did this...
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