Nearly half of families living in the Fifth Ward in Houston have had a cancer diagnosis in their household, according to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and environmental activist Erin Brockovich.
The two women said this during a town hall action meeting held at Wheatley High School to discuss cancer clusters in the Fifth Ward.
The meeting came after the Houston health department and Fifth Ward community group Impact conducted a health survey of 30 households in the area and found that 43 percent self-reported a cancer diagnosis.
The average cancer diagnosis for Houston is 6.1 percent, which makes 43 percent relatively high for the neighborhood. Most people received a cancer diagnosis after 2003.
The panel included representatives from state and health departments, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Residents that attended learned more about the study and steps they can take to protect themselves in the future.
The high cancer rate in the neighborhood is suspected to have been caused by creosote, a carcinogen used as a wood preservative at a rail yard owned by Union Pacific that is near Fifth Ward.
Officials say that the company is working with the State Health Department to determine if this was the case.
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“It is disconcerting that people with a cancer diagnosis in this neighborhood may have been exposed to creosote for four decades,” said Loren Hopkins, the chief environmental science officer at the Houston Health Department.
According to the Health Department survey, lung cancer was the most common type of cancer among those that participated in the survey and their families.