Public health, state leaders launching another cancer study around St. John parish

Air of uncertainty: St. John Parish Cancer Study

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - It’s a common story when asking residents throughout St. John parish: “Every household has someone died from cancer or has cancer,” says Mary Hampton.

Hampton and most of her extended family have lived near Laplace her whole life.

Since establishing in the parish, residents have become fearful of the Denka/Dupont plant nearby. It's the only plant in the U.S. that produces neoprene rubber and emits chloroprene into the air, a compound the EPA has labeled a likely carcinogen.

Hampton remembers the last time there was a door-to-door study of cancer cases around the plant. The University Network for Human Rights activist group published their findings that cancer rates were higher among those living closer to the plant.

“Why can’t they believe this report they have this report and they have the iris report from years ago,” Hampton said.

But since continued criticism of the report and continued outcry from community members. LSU Health with state health leaders are launching another cancer study in St. John parish.

“There’s been reports that rates were much higher implying that the Louisiana tumor registry had missed some of the cases,” Dr. Edward Trapido with LSU School of Public Health said.

Trapido says grad students will help gather data via door knocking to help determine if the rate of cancer around the plant is the same or different from what the Louisiana Tumor Registry reflects. They’ll also ask about other sicknesses or illnesses residents suffer from, but he says there are factors that will limit a fully comprehensive study.

“To do a proper study you need a big study to look at exposure and measure exposure, we don’t have the money and in some ways the expertise that we would need to bring in to do a really good job of measuring exposure, and we can’t go historically back to look at exposure unless we got information from the plant, and even then one will always question are those actually the most important records,” Trapido said .

“There’s a lot of questions that I personally have been trying to find out about the tumor registry,” said Hampton.

Hampton says she and her family and neighbors have many stories of cancer, sicknesses, and symptoms to report, but she fears state and health leaders’ efforts are being misplaced.

“You can do studies on top of studies but what are you going to do with the study… it’s frustrating it is because all the time you’re taking from this something can be done it could be done,” Hampton said.

Researchers are still looking for more input from local leaders and community members before launching the study, but they hope to begin within the end of the year.

Another community meeting should take place within the next couple of weeks.

The plant has told us they’ve continued to reduce chloroprene emissions with mitigation technology.

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