Health officials identify cancer cluster in Fifth Ward neighborhood

Affected residents want health officials to go door to door in their neighborhood to find out what kinds of cancers residents have after a carcinogenic plume was discovered.

The Houston Health Department and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) have requested the state health department to do an epidemiological study to figure out why the cancer cluster exists.

Houston Health Department's chief environmental science officer Dr. Loren Hopkins said she's concerned for the well-being of the residents in the area.

"We know that there is a plume under their homes and that plume contains carcinogens. And the carcinogens that that plume contains does create the kinds of cancers that have been found by the state as elevated in that neighborhood," said Hopkins.

She said after a carcinogenic plume was found under resident's homes, they were concerned if the ground water and soil could also be contaminated from what Union Pacific railroad was emanating.

"They felt that they were experiencing cancer in their neighborhood at higher rates than it seems would be reasonable," said Hopkins.

She said the next step is to find out if the plume is responsible for the elevated cancers (lung, esophagus, larynxand bronchus cancers were on average higher) the residents are getting.

She saids she was surprised at the cancer cluster results, as it's usually rare.

Hopkins added they're also asking for an analysis of birth defects.

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