HAZELWOOD, Mo. (AP) — A federal report says people who lived near or played in a contaminated St. Louis-area creek from the 1960s to the 1990s might have increased risk of developing cancer.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry released a report Monday on cancer risks from exposure to radioactive contaminants in St. Louis County's Coldwater Creek, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The report found that exposure could raise the risk of bone cancer, lung cancer and leukemia, including a smaller risk of skin and breast cancers.
Individuals who lived near the creek since 2000 are believed to have lower levels of radiation exposure, but still have the possibly higher risk of bone or lung cancer, according to the report.
Nuclear waste from World War II weapon production contaminated the creek decades ago. The waste was dumped at sites near the St. Louis Lambert International Airport, next to the creek that flows to the Missouri River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been cleaning up the creek for about 20 years.
More than 140 current and former North County residents have filed federal lawsuits in the last six years alleging nuclear waste exposure has caused illness or death.
The state's health officials requested federal assistance after a 2014 report indicated high rates of leukemia, breast, colon and other cancers in the areas surrounding Coldwater Creek. The toxic substances agency, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, launched a study two years ago into the potential link between the creek contamination and cancer cases.
Cancer clusters are difficult for scientists to investigate because of the complexity of the disease. The agency's investigators used historical data from soil testing to determine exposure level estimates.
"They are acknowledging our exposure, and that's a big deal," said Kim Visintine, who leads volunteer group Coldwater Creek — Just the Facts Please. The group has tracked 6,000 former and current area residents who have cancer diagnoses, she said.
She said the group will pursue federal legislation to recognize the county's residents through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which allows compensation claims for uranium workers or those living downwind from nuclear test sites in western states.