Young Lives at Stake Rural Areas Deserve Answers on Child Cancers

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), May 22, 2019 | Go to article overview

Young Lives at Stake Rural Areas Deserve Answers on Child Cancers


There are a lot of unanswered questions and troubled minds, not to mention sick kids, in some of the rural areas outside of Pittsburgh.

Rare cancers have been striking children and young adults in alarming numbers, sometimes fatally, in Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties. So far, health authorities have provided little insight into what is happening. They should be developing a plan for getting to the bottom of this health scare.

Carrie Simkovic, a Greene County resident who founded a foundation to help young cancer patients after her own son's diagnosis, had it right when she told the Post-Gazette: "When you have a little town like ours and have so many cancers, you have to ask, 'What's going on here?'"

Elected officials and health authorities should be asking that question urgently.

Ewing sarcoma - a cancer of the bone and tissue - is so rare that the nation sees only 200 to 250 cases a year. But there have been at least 27 cases in Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties since 2008. The Post-Gazette also has documented other rare cancers among dozens of children and young adults in those counties - 10 in Washington County's Canon-McMillan School District alone. The PG has documented 13 childhood and young adult cancer deaths in these counties since 2011, including three since 2015 in the West Greene School District.

Because the counties are a center of natural gas production, residents worry about environmental pollution as the source of the cancers. The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a trade group, has said there is no known link between fracking and childhood cancer. The operative word is "known."

The fracking process involves carcinogenic chemicals, and some academic studies have linked low birth weights, birth defects and asthma to fracking. …

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