Unusually high rates of cancer found around the Linde plant in the Town of Tonawanda have no direct ties to the radioactive material processed at the plant during the 1940s, according to a state Department of Health follow-up study on cancer incidence in the surrounding neighborhood.
State health officials will share the findings at a public meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. next Monday in the auditorium of Holmes Elementary School, 365 Dupont Ave.
A 2001 study revealed that cancer rates were 10 percent higher than normal in neighborhoods bearing 14150 and 14217 ZIP codes. The follow-up study narrowed its focus to the neighborhood around the elementary school, which is closer to the Linde site.
"The study reported here, when taken in its entirety, provides no evidence that cancer incidence in the surrounding residential areas may have been affected by potential radiological exposures from the Linde site," a summary of the findings states. "None of the cancers known to be highly sensitive to ionizing radiation (leukemia, thyroid cancer and female breast cancer) were found to be statistically significantly elevated in this follow-up investigation."
Residents of the industrial, working-class neighborhoods just west of Military Road became alarmed after the release of the 2001 report. They were concerned that the former Union Carbide Corp. Linde Division, where radioactive material was buried during development of the atomic bomb in the 1940s, was responsible for high cancer rates.
"The study concludes that there was little if any exposure to local residents to radiologic contaminants from operations at the Linde site," said Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Ronald H. Moline. "The study also points out that it's highly unlikely that any increased levels of any incidence are due to any single cause of environmental factor."
For example, cigarette smoking is "the most important risk factor for bladder cancer," which was found in excess among male residents. And the study reports that at the time of their diagnosis, the majority of the men were former or current smokers.
Moline encouraged residents to attend the public meeting, where they'll hear presentations and have their questions answered by a panel of experts.