WEST SALEM, Ore. -- Several families in West Salem are left with few answers about what may be causing a string of bone cancer diagnoses in their community.
The Environmental Protection Agency released the results of its yearlong study, which took samples from five sites, all schools and parks, and tested them for nearly 200 toxins. The study found no contaminants at concerning levels, although the city of Salem and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will be taking a second look at slightly elevated levels of a substance in Orchard Heights Park. All the agencies feel confident that is not linked to the cancer cases.
“I've gotten to know them on a personal level, and I'm confident they did everything they could within their scope to get the bottom of what it was,” said Craig Prosser, the father of one teenager diagnosed with osteosarcoma.
Prosser’s son, Tyler, 18, has been cancer-free for a year now, but he must still go to checkups in case the cancer comes back.
“Every three months, you have to just hold your breath and say a prayer,” said Craig Prosser.
Prosser was chosen to speak on behalf of other families impacted by the cancer. He said not all the families are as confident in the study results. Then again, not all the children survived. At least three of them died since 2008.
“If I was in their place, I would want all my questions answered, so we intend to do that,” said Anthony Barber, Director of Oregon Operations for the EPA. “We aim to always be responsive at people's request for help … especially if there is new information about contamination coming to light.”
For now, the EPA is no longer involved, but Craig Prosser and the other families are still searching. They are working with an independent researcher to analyze statewide cancer rates and look more closely at radon exposure.
“I’m not going to give up,” Prosser said. “I'm going to push through to try and find some answers.”
Read the full report here (be aware it is a very large file).