Parents wait for EPA study tied to Salem cancer cases

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been studying possible environmental causes for multiple cancer cases in West Salem, but it won't have its report ready by mid-January as planned.

EPA spokesman Mark MacIntyre last week said the report is close.

"There are many moving pieces to the puzzle of getting the report finished, reviewed, approved and ready for release," he told the Statesman-Journal.

Residents petitioned the EPA in late 2012 after several cases of osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, were seen in several young people in West Salem. Residents were concerned about possible environmental contaminants.

West Salem High School student Lisa Harder, 17, died of osteosarcoma in November 2012. At least four other West Salem youths were diagnosed with the same type of bone cancer in recent years, the newspaper reported.

In June 2013, an EPA contractor took samples at several locations to test for environmental contaminants, including pesticides, semi-volatile organic compounds such as paint, and metals such as mercury.

Investigators also tested for radium, which is found in some drinking-water sources.

West Salem has among the highest levels of radon in the state, and officials also have considered the possibility of a connection between it and osteosarcoma. Radon is a radioactive gas found in soils. It becomes a health risk when levels build up indoors.

The EPA preliminary site assessment was originally scheduled to be released in the fall.

The federal agency asked the Oregon Health Authority to look at the findings "to see if we agree or disagree," said Jae Douglas, head of OHA's Center for Prevention and Health Promotion. Staff members are meeting Thursday to discuss the report.

Some parents who had petitioned for the EPA to look into the matter are frustrated.

"Now, we're just sitting and waiting," said Craig Prosser, whose son, Tyler, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in March 2012. "We're just patiently waiting for some answers from the EPA."

Prosser said his son graduated from West Salem High School last year and is having a yearly checkup on Monday, the first since he was declared cancer-free.