Missouri health researchers to study creek fallout

Thursday, July 17, 2014 | 7:15 a.m. CDT; updated 2:29 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2014

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis County health officials said they plan to hire three researchers to study illness rates among residents near a creek that was contaminated decades ago by nuclear waste.

The St. Louis County Health Department's focus in the area near Coldwater Creek comes after 1,242 people out of 3,300 living by the stream answered they had cancer in a survey earlier this year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Residents started the survey after they said they saw a spike in diseases among people who graduated from McCluer North High School in Florissantin in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

"We need to be able to validate the information, to figure out if it is real and scientifically based, and whether we can get them more information and support," said Dolores Gunn, the health department's director.

A 2013 Missouri Health Department study found no higher risk of cancer for people living near the creek, but its authors also acknowledged their data only included residents in the area from 1996 to 2004.

The creek was contaminated with uranium, thorium and radium beginning in the 1940s. It became polluted after nuclear waste from atomic bomb production in St. Louis was dumped in the water.

The Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the creek's cleanup and has nearly finished the work. The Corps is studying soil and water samples from the creek north of Interstate 270 for potential contamination.

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