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Kasson Cancers: One Year Later Part 2

Posted at: 05/17/2013 6:57 PM
Updated at: 05/17/2013 7:21 PM
By: Laura Lee

(ABC 6 News) -- The most devastating part in all of this is the lack of answers. Not knowing.  But as we push for answers from health experts, the children are fighting to be heard as well.

"Cancer is just too rough for us to just consider people who suffer from it just as a statistic, we're not numbers we're people," says Sadie Cameron.

23-year-old Sadie Cameron is the oldest of the new cases in Kasson-Mantorville. She is now writing letters searching for answers.

"In writing these letters, I just really want to raise awareness and get someone's attention," says Cameron, "because no one is doing anything."

The Minnesota Department of Health has looked at several key factors including the most obvious, the water.

ABC 6 did some digging and according to water reports for the kasson area data determined that "no contaminants were detected at levels that violated federal drinking water standards."

"From science that we have seen so far, childhood cancers doesn't seem to be that where you live matters as where you get cancer or not," says Senior Epidemiologist John Soler with the Minnesota Department of Health.

"That's not good enough, to put us at ease as parents," says Jody Kochie.

We started investigating the sudden increase of childhood cancer cases after six children were diagnosed with cancer from the Kasson-Mantorville area in a three year time period.

But medical researchers suggest there is no link.

"I fear that there will be more before children by the end of 2014," says Cameron.

Sadie's mother, Jody, also has the same fears, "you kind of sit as a parent, like a sitting duck, is my child next."

In a town of nearly 6,000 residents, the cancer cluster now has the attention of the mayor as well.

"My heart goes out to the families," says Mayor Tim Tjosaas, "we'll do what we can to allay those fears."

Since our investigation, Mayor Tjosaas has been in contact with the state health department working to find answers.

"Based on our conversation with the health department, environmentally they don't see anything of concern," he says.

Soler adds, "I can not prove to the families that there is nothing there, all I can do is present the science as best we know it."

Scientists also say air pollution historically has never been associated with childhood cancers.

"The air in Kasson is hardly different from Byron or Dodge Center," says Soler. Researchers have also ruled out soil and pesticides.

"Pesticides and herbicides are used in all of Southeast Minnesota, and if you look at the cancer rates you'd think if its a factor it would show up where there is farming, but its not, in fact by Kasson its low," says Soler.

We also looked into another concern: the local landfill. However, health officials say because the water quality is good, that rules out potential contaminants in the landfill.

"As far as environmental concerns the problem is we don't have an industry we don't have a plant that may be discharging to water supply," says Tjosaas.

The health department also points out in this case, not all 12 cancers are the same.

"An exposure to something doesn't cause all sorts of cancers it usually causes one kind of cancer," says Soler.

Out of the dozen cancer cases, six are leukemia, three Hodgkin's Lymphoma, one wilms tumor, one brain tumor and one neuroblastoma.

Some of the new cases also technically fall outside of the childhood cancer definition, meaning they are documented as adult cases.

"I can certainly understand that people of community are concerned, why this is happening here, and based on our conclusions, Kasson-Mantorville is a safe place to live," says Soler.

But those living the nightmare aren't buying it.

"It feels like everyone is brushing it aside, telling us its just a cluster everything will be fine, but these are not their children," says Kochie.

"I certainly understand, I'm a father myself, and it would be a difficult situation to be in, not only to have a child, but to be a neighbor" says Soler.

"We all went into this field to try to find answers, if we thought there would be an answer to be found, we'd be the first to go out and find them,"

"Things are okay here, i've grown up here, I have two kids, I have no concern," says Tjosaas. "The main thing is that the community continues to come together to support the families that's number one."

In the meantime the children and their families have been forced to turn to other outlets like the governor, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Erin Brockovich.

"I'll at least sleep a little easier at night knowing we did everything we could to try to figure it out," says Sadie.

"I will not stop until we all have peace of mind."

Sadie says she has not heard back from anyone yet.

Meantime, we contacted the CDC to see if they'd launch a study, and at this point they tell us the state has not requested their assistance.