Why Didn't Toxic Waste Cause a Cancer Epidemic, Like We Expected in the 1970s?

Posted by K R on

Nearly 35 years after Congress passed the Superfund law to clean up the nation's waste, only three such clusters have been documented in the United States. Probably the clearest is the cluster of 19 children who contracted leukemia in Woburn, Massachusetts—a story memorialized in the book A Civil Action and in a film by the same name. A second cluster, involving cases of leukemia and brain cancer among girls in Toms River, New Jersey, may be linked to two Superfund sites nearby, but that link is debatable. And the third cluster, involving pleural cancers among shipyard workers in Charleston, South Carolina, has turned out to be tied more to their exposure to asbestos in their workplace than to the fact that they all lived near a waste site. Three clusters at most: This is not the cancer wave we expected in the 1970s, when hazardous waste first made headlines. What happened? Is hazardous waste not as big a deal as we thought? Or is the case against it just too hard to prove? That's still up for debate—but the answer is probably a bit of both. More via Nat Geo.

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