Late last year Houston’s first cancer cluster was identified in the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens area, now the state has a new report that has found children have been contracting leukemia at close to five times the expected rate.
Last year residents were enraged after discovering data from a study by the Texas Department of State Health Services that found larger than expected cancer clusters below the ground of over 100 homes where their children play, RA News reported. The study found that creosote contamination was threatening the neighbors of the Englewood Rail Yard, owned by the Union Pacific railroad company.
The new report examined 21 census tracts located within approximately a two mile-radius of the former railroad creosote treatment facility, owned by the Union Pacific railroad company.
The Department of State Health Services examined cases from 2000 to 2016 and found that when all 21 census tracts were evaluated, the number of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia cases was greater than expected based on cancer rates in Texas.
“The finding of another cancer cluster in the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens area highlights the significant adverse health impacts that have plagued areas of our city for decades,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner in a statement.
Although the data had been published in the summer it wasn’t brought to the attention of the community until December 2019.
“It’s not just the adults being harmed, but our children as well, by this cancer-causing pollution,” said Andre West, a spokesperson of IMPACT, a grassroots community environmental organization, who is also a resident of the Fifth Ward.
Turner is requesting that Union Pacific help to relocate affected residents and create a buffer between contaminated areas and homes in the neighborhood. “The EPA and TCEQ must declare the area a Super Fund site. Someone needs to be held accountable for the healthcare costs of these families and specifically these children,” Turner said.