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Saturday, July 28, 2001 Local Forecast & Weather

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Published Saturday, July 28, 2001, in the Akron Beacon Journal.

River Valley cancer tie inconclusive, study says

Research to assess link between contamination, leukemia discontinued

Associated Press

MARION: An extensive, four-year study by the Ohio Health Department failed to determine if toxic contamination on River Valley school property contributed to a high leukemia rate among graduates.

The department released its report at a meeting Thursday night of a community-advisory group studying contamination issues at River Valley and elsewhere in Marion.

No further studies are planned, department spokesman Jay Carey said yesterday. ``We know more about this site than any site in Ohio and we can't find the one single cause of these leukemia cases,'' Carey said.

River Valley's high school and middle school sit on part of a former military depot where chemical waste was dumped for years. An investigation of the contamination and school leukemia cases began in 1997.

The health department study turned up 83 leukemia cases in Marion County, including nine high school graduates.

``Despite an exhaustive study, making use of the best available science, we were unable to identify one single cause'' for the leukemia, state Health Director J. Nick Baird said in a statement.

The leukemia study looked at high-school graduates from 1963 to 2000. The study later expanded to look at all leukemia cases in Marion County between Jan. 1, 1992, and Dec. 31, 1999, using data from the state cancer registry.

A total of 47 leukemia victims participated in the study, including all nine graduates. Two people refused to participate, and health officials weren't able to interview 34 others.

The report made three conclusions:

  • The most common factor among the leukemia victims was direct or secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke.

  • Six of the River Valley graduates had extensive contact with school grounds through sports or agricultural activities, but it is not known whether it included exposure to potential cancer-causing contaminants.

  • Continued study of leukemia among Marion County residents and River Valley graduates is unlikely to identify additional factors that caused the leukemia.

    ``There are 56,000 new cases of cancer each year in Ohio,'' Robert Indian of the Health Department told the advisory group. ``The way cancer works, there are usually a number of factors at work.''

    River Valley, a 1,700-student district east of Marion, plans to build a new high school and middle school on a different site by August 2003.

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