Commissioners Novello and Cahill Reiterate Support to Hillcrest Community
Comment on the State's Plan to Follow–up on Recently Released Childhood Cancer Study
Albany, November 9, 1999 – State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello M.D., M.P.H. and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John P. Cahill today reiterated their commitment to the residents of the Hamlet of Hillcrest, Broome County, regarding the results of an investigation into cancer incidence among children in that area. During a public meeting held last night, staff from the State Health Department provided an overview of an investigation from 1980 to 1998 into cancer incidence among children in the Hamlet of Hillcrest.
The investigative report, which was released last night at a public meeting in Hillcrest, was a study of cancers diagnosed from 1980 through 1998 among six children ages 14 and younger, living within blocks of each other, who were diagnosed with leukemia, brain cancer or lymphoma, and were residing at the time of their diagnoses in the 4.38 square mile study area that includes the Hamlet of Hillcrest.
"Nothing is more devastating to a family or a community than when children are stricken with a disease, especially if that disease is cancer," Dr. Novello said. "I want the parents of the children and the entire community to know that the Department is committed to doing everything within its power to try to find out why these children developed this disease."
Dr. Novello said, "I want to assure the parents that the Health Department will take swift and diligent action to follow–up on the report that was released at the public meeting last night. To begin, we will continue to monitor the cancer registry to see if any additional children in the Hillcrest area have been diagnosed with cancer. Further, we will expedite our investigation into adult cancers in the Hillcrest area and report our findings to the community as soon as they become available. Likewise, I have directed the Department to expedite the informational report on local environmental risk factors – that may potentially be connected to the childhood cancers."
DEC Commissioner John P. Cahill said, "Just last month DEC held one of several public meetings, to talk to the community about the CAE Electronics and Triple Cities Metal Finishing sites. As Commissioner Novello has said, this is a priority issue to both the Health Department and the Department of Environmental Conservation. We will continue to work together to look at the environmental sites to see what impact, if any, they have had on the public health of Hillcrest residents. And if, during our investigation, environmental exposures of concern are identified, DEC will take appropriate action to reduce or eliminate those exposures."
The study included a detailed review of childhood cancers in the Hillcrest area in the cancer registry from 1980 through 1998. In addition, DOH staff conducted follow–up interviews with the parents of the children to see if the children or their families had risk factors that were known or suspected to be related to risk for childhood cancers.
The interview information did not identify an obvious explanation for the unusual pattern of cancer in the study area. Although studies like these have limitations and the unusual pattern of cancers may be linked to some real factors, the possibility that it also may be attributable to chance cannot be summarily discarded. The findings of this report support the need to continue with this investigation.
Listed below are the follow–up actions that are planned or currently underway.
- NYSDOH will continue to monitor New York State Cancer Registry data to check for any new cases of cancer among children in the Hillcrest study area. To date, no additional cases have been identified from the Registry or from reports directly from the community since 1998. If any additional cases are identified, they will be included in the ongoing investigation.
- NYSDOH will continue to work with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Broome County Health Department to investigate the CAE Electronics inactive hazardous waste site, the Triple Cities Metal Finishing Facility, and the Binghamton Storage Depot. NYSDOH has worked and will continue to work with these agencies to make sure that if any ongoing environmental exposures of concern are identified, the appropriate measure will be taken to reduce or eliminate those exposures.
- NYSDOH will continue to investigate further the role of possible infectious agents in this unusual clustering of childhood cancers.
- NYSDOH will follow–up the findings of this report with an environmental report. Information about local environmental factors (such as the CAE Electronics inactive hazardous waste site, other contaminated sites, emissions sources, etc.) will be evaluated to look for a potential connection between them and the childhood cancers documented in this report.
"I want to assure the parents and the community that no stone will remain unturned in this investigation," Dr. Novello said.11/9/99–156 OPA