State: no cancer cluster at Frank P. Long

By GLENN ROHRBACKER
Posted 12/25/19

A study performed by the New York State Department of Health deemed that the cancers found in teachers at Frank P. Long Intermediate School “do not appear unusual.”

The study looked at …

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State: no cancer cluster at Frank P. Long

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A study performed by the New York State Department of Health deemed that the cancers found in teachers at Frank P. Long Intermediate School “do not appear unusual.”

The study looked at 31 people with diagnoses of cancer, some of whom had multiple tumors. The earliest date of diagnosis was in 1980, and the latest was in 2017. But 80 percent of the cancers were diagnosed after 2000. Thirteen different types of cancer were noted in the study. Breast cancer was the most common, with 11 cases. Others were colorectal, lung, endometrium, malignant melanoma of the skin, bladder, ovarian, and other types, according to the report. Six people could not be confirmed as being diagnosed with a cancer.

The report compared the statistics provided by the cancer diagnoses with the expected rate of cancer development for employees at the school, using information provided by the district. It was calculated that 29.9 cases would be expected. Twenty-two cancers were actually confirmed among comparable employees, according to the findings. The department found that the differences in statistics were not significant.

The report comes after years of fighting by community parents to close the school and studies performed by the district to judge the effects of the Brookhaven landfill on the property. Families had claimed that the odor and the pollution from the landfill had made their kids sick and contributed to the deaths and illnesses of teachers who work there.

Bellport Teachers Association president Wayne White released a statement addressing the report, saying, “Although the recent report released by the NYS Department of Health indicates there is not a cancer cluster in the school, it does not alter the fact that students and staff have been diagnosed with serious illnesses. We acknowledge the amount of work the Department of Health put into this cancer review and appreciate their willingness to present the findings to the Frank P. Long staff. We understand the difficulty in proving cancer clusters, however, cancer is only one of the illnesses diagnosed at Frank P. Long. As a union, we will continue to advocate in the interest for our students and staff, past and present.”

The district released a message last week that said it joined in the teachers association’s request and fully cooperated with the inquiry.

“Ensuring the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff continues to be our number one priority, and the district stands willing to offer our assistance with the NYSDOH’s efforts with respect to such a study,” superintendent Joseph Giani wrote in an October 2017 letter to the Department of Health.

The Town of Brookhaven also released a statement through spokesman Jack Kreiger: “The Brookhaven landfill is one of the most technologically advanced and regulated waste management facilities in New York, and is monitored continuously by the Town and NYS DEC, providing an environmentally safe location for the disposal of incinerated household garbage. We work diligently every day to operate our facility safely and efficiently, and this report reinforces that our efforts there have been successful.” 

Methodology

The state Department of Health uses certain measurements to decide if a group of cancers is unusual. According to the report summary, these include

— An unusually high number of cases of the same type of cancer

— Two or more cases of a particularly rare cancer 

— Cancers occurring at unusual ages for that cancer

— Many cancers occurring in a short span of years

— Adequate latency

Source: New York State Department of Health

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