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NEWS OF THE WEEK
ENVIRONMENT
December 24, 2001
Volume 79, Number 52
CENEAR 79 52 p. 7
ISSN 0009-2347
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STUDY CONFIRMS CANCER CONNECTION
Report on risks from Toms River pollution follows legal settlement

MARC REISCH and CHERYL HOGUE

Everybody says the timing was just a coincidence. But pollution troubles were in the air again when a New Jersey state and federal government study on a cluster of childhood cancers in Toms River and a settlement between victims and sources of pollution--Ciba Specialty Chemicals and Dow Chemical--came to light within days of each other.

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HAZARD Air emissions from Ciba's now-closed Toms River facility are linked to some childhood cancers
The six-year study, released last week, shows that prenatal exposure to drinking water from contaminated wells linked to Union Carbide (now owned by Dow Chemical) and air emissions from a now-shuttered Ciba Specialty Chemicals plant appear to be risk factors for childhood leukemia among girls. The study found no evidence that leukemia in boys or nervous system cancers of male or female children were linked to environmental exposures. Treatment systems in the area now strip pollutants from public drinking water supplies drawn from affected wells.

"While our finding suggests an association between these past exposures and childhood leukemia in females, this does not automatically and necessarily indicate a causal relationship," says Eddy A. Bresnitz, New Jersey's state epidemiologist. New Jersey's Department of Health & Senior Services conducted the study with help from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.

Only days before the study came out, 69 families whose children suffer from cancer settled claims against Ciba, Dow, and the local utility, United Water Resources. Dow took part in the settlement because a contractor dumped Union Carbide waste from a plastics plant in Bound Brook, N.J., in an illegal landfill in the 1970s.

"We settled because it was the logical end of a four-year negotiating process," says an attorney for the families, Gerald J. Williams. Financial terms are confidential. But Williams, of Philadelphia-based Williams, Cuker & Berezofsky, says he believes the families will be fairly compensated.

Both chemical firms settled without admitting liability. "We wanted to bring closure so everyone could get on with their lives," a Ciba spokeswoman says.

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