A North Carolina mother has paid Duke University to conduct a study into a suspected thyroid cancer cluster, which some suspect may be linked to coal ash basins in the area.
According to report byNBC News, Susan Wind, of Mooresville, raised $110,000 for a study into thyroid cancer in the Iredell County area, which will take several months to complete. She initiated fundraising for the study after discovering her teenage daughter had thyroid cancer, along with three other people on her street alone.
While the area is not officially considered a cancer cluster by the state, in 2018 the Iredell County Health Department found double the number of expected papillary thyroid cancer cases from 2012 to 2016 in two zip codes in Mooresville, including the one where Wind lived.
Concerns about the presence of coal ash, released from power plants in the state, led the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the issue. However, it released a report in January 2019, which found there were no published studies that supported a link between coal ash and thyroid cancer, leading some to call for such studies to be conducted.
Two power plants, including the McGuire Nuclear Station and the Marshall Steam Station are both near Mooresville, and run by Duke Energy. Marshall is where Duke Energy stores 21% of the coal ash its plants generate, including 16.8 million tons in an unlined basin. Coal ash is known to include contaminants such as arsenic, lead and mercury, which can pollute air and water.
Last week, Duke Energy and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, as well as a number of environmental groups, announced an agreement to close the company’s nine coal ash basins statewide by excavating them and moving them to lined landfills, which would theoretically prevent contaminants from leaching into the environment. The agreement resolves a number of pending environmental lawsuits.
“North Carolina’s communities have lived with the threat of coal ash pollution for too long. They can now be certain that the clean-up of the last coal ash impoundments in our state will begin this year,” DEQ Secretary Michael S. Regan said in the press release. “We are holding Duke accountable and will continue to hold them accountable for their actions as we protect public health, the environment and our natural resources.”
However, at Marshall and one other plant, Roxboro, not all the coal ash can be removed, because some of the older deposits have been covered by additional lined landfills. Instead, those sites will be sealed and monitored.
The Duke University study Wind funded will involve testing of air, groundwater and soil in the area to check for any possible causes for the high rate of thyroid cancer in the area. In addition, state legislators and Governor Roy Cooper passed legislation in July 2019 to create a panel to review potential cancer clusters statewide.
That panel met for the first time in December and will issue a report in April defining what constitutes a cancer cluster and how to fund further studies.
In the interim, Wind has moved her family to Florida and her daughter’s thyroid cancer is in remission.