By Richard Fetzer
“You have cancer.” These are possibly the three most terrifying words that anyone can hear. Those three words have the power to change or, in the worst cases, end a life. For residents of Pompton Lakes, N.J. those three words are heard more then any of the surrounding towns in North Jersey.
According to a report by the state Department of Health and Senior Services, there were 169 hospitalizations of Pompton Lakes women for tumorous cancers, compared with the 122 that would have been expected based on statewide figures. Pompton Lakes men were hospitalized 23 percent more often than expected for tumorous cancers, with 118 incidents compared to an expected 95.6.
DuPont Co. may not be responsible for higher cancer rates in Pompton Lakes. According to Nj.com, the report released by the Department of Health and Senior Services found “significantly elevated” rates of cancer in both men and women. The report, which was released in December of 2009, concludes that the results of research shows inconsistencies that suggest that environmental factors have not caused to the rise in cancer in Pompton Lakes residents.
According to the report, “Inconsistency between results for males and females for these cancers does not support a causal association with these potential environmental exposures.”
The investigation also explains that the cause of the heightened rate of cancer in Pompton Lakes residents cannot be clearly explained, but it does give some insight. According to the report, “Other plausible explanations for the elevated SIR include other immeasurable risk factors in the community, or chance alone.”
The report explains that these other “immeasurable risk factors” may include tobacco consumption or occupational exposures.
Some in the North Jersey area are not convinced by the report’s findings, such as Annie Echevarria, a Ramapo College student who had family in Pompton Lakes.
“I think that DuPont must have something to do with cancer in Pompton Lakes,” says Echevarria. “How else can you explain the numbers? I mean, serious?”
According to pomptonlakeshistory.com, DuPont began manufacturing explosives in Pompton Lakes in 1902. Manufacturing was vamped up during World War I, employment increasing from 300 to more than 7,500, and again during World War II. DuPont’s manufacturing in Pompton Lakes continued until April of 1994. While it was in operation, DuPont produced blasting caps, military detonation fuses, and rocket igniters.
Since the 1980’s DuPont has been doing a cleanup of industrial contamination that migrated from the plant site into residential neighborhoods. The contamination includes lead, mercury and toxic chemicals in solvents that have been found to have seeped into homes from a groundwater plume.
“There is no way with DuPont’s history, that it is not responsible for the health issues in Pompton Lakes,” says Echevarria. “I just hope that the community can recover.”