Attorneys Alan W. Mortensen, right, and Dustin Lance, left, speak during a press conference about the Clyde cancer cluster in 2012, at the Clyde Public Library in Clyde, Ohio.
CLYDE, Ohio — Environmental consultant Joel Hebdon was busy Monday afternoon as he started collecting air samples to be used to detect whether environmental contaminants are in the homes of some Clyde residents.
Families have retained the consultant to perform particulate dust testing in attics, in hopes of finding the cause of a childhood cancer cluster in the area. At least 37 childhood cancer cases have been reported within a 12-mile radius of Clyde over more than a decade. Four of the children have died.
Alan W. Mortensen, an attorney with Dewsnup, King & Olsen, a personal-injury law firm based in Salt Lake City, represents nine Clyde-area families who have been affected. He said the most recent round of testing is designed to be more comprehensive. “They’re trying to find out whether there was something airborne that may have caused this cancer cluster. That really has not been explored yet,” Mr. Mortensen said.
In 2007, the Sandusky County Health Department contacted the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency about the perceived high rates of cancer in the Clyde area.
After much testing at more than a dozen area sites, it was revealed that polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs, were found at an area park that was used by Whirlpool Corp. families and employees. PCBs are considered probable human carcinogens, according to the U.S. EPA.
Toxic sludge was also found in the park, which is near Green Springs, and some of the affected families suspect the findings might be the reason for the cancer cluster. The Whirlpool Corp., which sold the property in 2008, has agreed to do a comprehensive environmental study of the site.
Mr. Hebdon, an independent contractor from Richland, Wash., who specializes in corporate environmental policy, environmental restoration, sustainability, and hazardous waste treatment, performed two types of tests in the attics. He said the samples will give residents a historical cross-section.
“We’re actually doing two things right now,” Mr. Hebdon said. “We’re using a protocol developed by the EPA for the World Trade Center ... It’s basically a high-efficiency particulate filter ... and a vacuum and we suck dust into the filter, shake the dust off the filter. ...”
The dust is sent to a laboratory for analysis. Another method includes using cotton pads to wipe dust samples from surfaces. Sampling the air itself is a quick process, he said, noting the testing process lasts about 5-10 minutes a room.
Mr. Hebdon expected final results would be available in about three weeks.
Mr. Mortensen said the results will reach homeowners first. “It will be relayed first to the family members, to let them know, and then it will be released to the community as a whole,” he said.
Attempts to reach some affected families were unsuccessful.
Testing will continue into midweek. Today, Mr. Hebdon will take samples of sludge at the Clyde Reservoir. On Wednesday, he will take samples from the Clyde Water Treatment Plant.
In February, 2012, 14 suspected contaminated sites in Clyde were surveyed by the U.S. EPA. The agency later reported that “13 of 14 sites surveyed were not contaminated.”
Mr. Mortenson said the air sampling process can either end up reassuring, or further alarming, citizens. “... They can either feel better, or if there’s potentially a problem, that can be addressed,” he said.
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