State health officials investigating cancer cluster concerns in Carlsbad found that while the overall cancer rate is not unusually high for the city, there is one statistic that troubles them.
A community forum at the Carlsbad Sheraton was held Monday to discuss the findings.
The meeting began with a passionate plea from Carlsbad resident Stacey Quartarone.
"I am furious, these are our children that are dying," Quartarone told the crowd of approximately 300.
She and her husband John lost their 16-year old son Chase to lymphoma last December.
Chase was a student at Carlsbad High School and before that a student at Kelly Elementary.
"The soil needs to be tested, the air needs to be tested, the water needs to be tested," Quartarone told state and county health officials who were part of a panel of experts.
The Quartarones, featured in a series of stories by NBCSanDiego, helped launch a state investigation into the number of cancer cases in Carlsbad.
On Monday, health officials revealed their findings.
State health official Dr. Donald Lyman told the crowd that investigators counted all the cases within city limits from 1996 to 2008. The numbers from 2009 are still being gathered.
According to health officials Carlsbad's overall cancer rate is not unusually high. In fact, when it comes to breast, prostate and lung cancers, the number is actually lower than expected.
"We also found no cancer excesses among children," said Dr. Lyman.
But the study did reveal an unusually high number of malignant melanoma for Carlsbad residents.
"You asked us to look for unusual findings, here is a big one," Lyman told the crowd. "It's one of the few cancers that's increasing and that scares us."
Also, for some unknown reason, the rate of cancer among women 20 years of age and older is slightly higher in the area between Carlsbad High and Kelly Elementary.
Some residents say that's good enough reason to investigate even further.
"Regardless of what the numbers say currently and I believe those numbers will increase with time, you have the perception of a cancer cluster in Carlsbad, this needs to be taken seriously," said Jennifer Carlos.
She is trying to sell her Carlsbad home and is concerned about property values being affected by the “uncertainty" of a cancer problem with the soil, air or water.
She also wants testing done at schools and parks, just to be sure that there isn't an issue.
Prior to the forum, the Carlsbad Unified School District announced that testing had been conducted at Kelly Elementary on a section of sand and soil.
The results came back negative for any toxins according to superintendent Dr. John Roach.
During the forum, parents criticized Roach over his handling of the cancer concerns prior to the recent soil testing.
In the past few months, Roach and some members of the school board have been reluctant to allow parents to test the soil at Kelly, saying that there wouldn't be a need for testing unless the state said it was necessary.
Some residents aren't satisfied with the recent test, saying it only focused on one area of Kelly and other areas of the school still haven't been analyzed.
They cite what happened with Carlsbad High School in 2008, when high amounts of arsenic were found in different areas of the football field, not just one.
The soil from the field had to be removed and taken to a dumpsite in Nevada as a safety precaution.
The parents also want soil testing at nine other schools within the school district.
During the meeting, Dr. Roach said he would schedule an emergency meeting with the board to discuss the matter.
As for the state and county investigation, it's still not over.
State officials are still gathering information on the number of cases from 2009.
County officials say they will now concentrate their efforts on the area around Kelly Elementary, where the Quartarones say 18 kids have been diagnosed with cancer over the past 10 years.
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