Florida Governor Says Acreage Residents Need Federal Help

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Florida health officials will “accelerate” their investigation of the childhood cancer cluster in central Palm Beach County by appealing to the federal government for help, reports the Palm Beach Post. Wednesday, the state said it did not plan to further research an environmental cause.

Thursday, in an interview, Gov. Charlie Christ said, “This is of grave concern to me. The people deserve every ounce of energy that can be put into this situation to reveal how this happened, what the cause might be and what can be done to help these residents.”

Federal help is needed to determine the next step for residents in The Acreage because state health officials had exhausted their research options, Florida Surgeon General Ana Viamonte Ros said today, according to the Post.

“We’ve reached that point where we need federal guidance to review what we’ve done and better clarify what the next steps should be,” Viamonte Ros stated in an interview.

Immediate measures initiated were: a letter to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson; the state health department’s environmental health director called the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the National Institutes of Health will also be notified, according to a health department spokesman.

Outrage among Acreage residents was evident Wednesday after state health officials said they would not track an environmental cause why residents are exhibiting higher rates of brain tumors and cancer than normal.

Viamonte Ros said she did not ‘sign-off on that decision’ from Dr. Alina Alonso, Palm Beach County Health Department director, but Ros agreed that the state had exhausted its options, wrote the Palm Beach Post.

“There’s nothing more precious to us than our children and their health,” Ros said. “We want to do everything we can and use all the resources in order to give as much information.”

Community people have speculated that a nearby Pratt & Whitney jet engine plant and/or area citrus groves could have tainted the well water. Since the groves used potentially dangerous pesticides for many years, soil contamination was also a concern. Previously, well tests conducted by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) did not disclose any toxins, but four wells did find levels of alpha particles, radium-226 or radium-228, that exceed drinking water standards.

Radium-226 and radium-228 are naturally occurring radioactive metals that could cause cancer at increased levels. The four wells in which elevated levels of radium-225 or radium-228 were detected did not appear to be near places where residents had reported brain cancer in children. The DEP said the contamination might require homeowners with affected wells to install water treatment systems. The DEP considered area ground water safe at that time.