Kristen Abner, Grand Forks, letter: Do chemicals contribute to Grand Forks’ cancer rates?When will we as a community question and investigate why there are so many with cancer?
By: Kristen Abner, Grand Forks Herald
By Kristen Abner
GRAND FORKS — I was relieved to see a story recently about “Smile Wide Day” in honor of Ali Borgen and about the fact that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
In the story, a Grand Forks official said that about one child every three years is diagnosed with leukemia in the Grand Forks area. Unfortunately, that statistic is very wrong.
In five years, more than a dozen children have been diagnosed with leukemia.
We moved here in 2007, and in 2008, I met a family who had lost a special daughter to leukemia. I had decided that I would run a marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society honoring this amazing child.
As I was talking to more people and meeting new friends, I continued to hear about other children and adults with leukemia and other blood cancers. So I started my own research on other possible leukemia cases and causes. I gathered many articles online, including studies that begin to link household pesticides with childhood leukemia.
If an average household is using indoor and outdoor pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and also usingg other toxic chemicals in the home, at what point is each toxin’s “safe level” reached — and as a combined total, do they create health problems for people, particularly children?
Presently, I am training for another marathon with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while honoring 12 local children who have or have had leukemia. I fear that there are more sick children out there, and I worry about when — not if — the next child will be diagnosed.
As I keep searching for answers, my concern about cancer in general increases. Since moving here, I have known more women with breast cancer than the total of all other places that I have lived. In the past four years, I have met nine such women without effort. How many others cases are there?
I continue to question the cause of these seemingly high rates of cancers. I have done a great deal of research on the Internet, but obviously, I am not an expert.
But when I walk out on to the patio the morning after Grand Forks has sprayed for mosquitoes and see hundreds of dragonflies dead or dying, I am heartsick to see such gorgeous, beneficial insects — which have survived for millions of years — struggling for life.
At what point does that pesticide affect a human being, especially a child who has been exposed to it for his or her entire life?
This city is exposed to many unnatural chemicals and toxins through the use of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. This includes additional pesticides from the city, large factories and a river that flows north through farm country, bringing with it who knows how many contaminants.
Additionally, there are several locations in Grand Forks County that are being investigated for the toxin of benzene — a known human carcinogen that is linked to leukemia and are listed on the CDC/The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry website.
Last but not least, the entire state of North Dakota is listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website as having the highest potential for elevated radon levels, also a known carcinogen.
In February 2010, a Herald story reported that the use of pesticides set a record in 2008. Then in July, another story announced that the Department of Agriculture will distribute more than $1 million among counties for noxious weed control over the next two years.
When do we start being more proactive and help prevent some diseases by using safer products to help grow our crops, lawns and gardens? When will there be more studies on the quality of water, soil and air?
When will we as a community question and investigate why there are so many with cancer? At what point do we stop ignoring these issues and start discussing methods of creating a healthier future for Grand Forks and our children?
Abner is a wife and mother and will be running her fourth marathon for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.