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Interesting Information: Cancer Rates, Delmarva Peninsula

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Interesting Information:  June 14, 2010

Cancer Rates, Delmarva Peninsula

The Maine Organic Farmers’ and Growers Association quarterly journal came last week some time.  The journal always list up-to-date information about toxins.  This issue had a piece of information that I’ve searched for, off and on, for some time–cancer rates on the Eastern Shore.   

The area where my niece Catherine died, called the Eastern Shore, is part of a larger geographical structure called the Delmarva Peninsula–for the states of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia which make it up.  The Delmarva peninsula is known for chicken production (growing and slaughtering) and for truck gardening.  The produce goes to neighboring urban areas, among them DC and Baltimore. 

Catherine lived just downwind from a chicken processing plant.  Neighboring fields were covered routinely with chicken manure.  These plants pumped bloody water into the bay.  Indeed, pfiesteria piscicida was discovered in the Chesapeake Bay very near her home south of Onancock.  Pfiesteria piscicida kills, massively kills, fish.  And, it has been associated with both the handling of pig and chicken manure in large, industrial practices, as a quick google search demonstrates.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pfiesteria_piscicida  and http://www.grist.org/article/last/

Anyway, here is the article from the June-August 2010 MOFGA journal, pages 9 and 10.  I’ve just retyped it exactly as it appears:

“Sheila Pell reports in Emagazine that some 70 percent of U.S. broiler chickens, as well as turkeys and swine, are given the arsenic-based growth promoting feed additive roxarsone.  While some of that organic arsenic remains in chicken meat, most is excreted and breaks down into inorganic arsenic, a strong promoter of many cancers.  In Prairie Grove, Arkansas, which is surrounded by large poultry factory farms, and where manure from those farms is used extensively as fertilizer on area fields, incidences of rare cancers are high.  A decade ago, the town’s 2,500 residents learned that 17 children there suffered from cancers including brain and testicular cancer and leukemia.  Likewise, the  Peninsula, another area with factory poultry farms, has one of the highest cancer rates in the United States.  Manure that isn’t used as fertilizer is added to cattle feed.  The National Chicken Council claims that roxarsone, an antibiotic, contributes to “animal health and welfare, food  and environmental sustainability.”  (“Arsenic and Old Studies–Pressure Is On to Ban a Hazardous but Profitable Feed Additive,” by Sheila Pell, Emagazine, March-April 2010; http://www.emagazine.com/view/?5064). 

High cancer rates on the Delmarva peninsula…  It’s nice to see it confirmed…

When Catherine was dying, and we all started at looking at why she might have gotten such an aggressive cancer–it killed her in a year despite every medical intervention tried, including a stem-cell transplant at Duke–we wondered about all the cancer in young people where she lived.  We wondered about the water.  We wondered about the truck gardening.  We really wondered about the chicken industry.

The Eastern Shore in perfectly suited for large industry, in that while there are some wealthy people who have vacation homes, most of the area is poor.  The chicken and produce industries provide jobs–though many of them, I suspect from looking at who was working in the fields, are going to illegal immigrants.  Anyway, no one locally will fight what is happening to the environment–even though many families have been struck with the nightmare of cancer.

Arsenic has never been banned in the United States, and it is still used agriculturally. 

 

Written by louisaenright

June 14, 2010 at 3:08 pm