The Texas Department of State Health Services found a cancer cluster in two north Houston neighborhoods, but didn’t reveal the fact to residents for nearly four months, the Houston Chronicle reported.
A study released in August showed that residents of the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens, located near a rail yard site known to be contaminated with creosote, were more likely to develop cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency has named creosote as a likely cancer-causing substance.
The findings weren’t communicated to residents of those neighborhoods until earlier this month, the newspaper said. The revelation has sparked demands from local officials for more health studies and environmental testing.
“I am so angry,” Leisa Glenn, a local homeowner, told the Chronicle. “That’s not showing consideration for us. It’s like they don’t care if we die.”
The state health agency indicated the lack of notification was due to miscommunication.
At an April town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality agreed to request a cancer cluster study from DSHS.
The report published Aug. 13 by DSHS on its website found those areas had higher-than-expected cases of lung, esophagus and larynx cancers between 2000 and 2016. The DSHS told the newspaper that per its policy it sent the results to the requester, which in this instance was TCEQ.
“Our understanding was that TCEQ provided the report to the community, including local officials,” Lara Anton, press officer for the health agency, told the Chronicle.
Jackson Lee told the newspaper her office made an announcement to the community in September after the report was presented to her staff. The Chronicle could find no notification on her website.
Mayor’s office spokesman Alan Bernstein told the Chronicle the city didn’t find out about the report until late November, after Loren Hopkins, Houston Health Department’s chief environmental science officer, followed up with DSHS to request the cancer cluster analysis, not realizing it had already been performed.