Tell the PA Department of Health: Update the Public on Childhood Cancer Study

Posted May 10, 2023, by Alli Greenlief

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In November 2019, Governor Tom Wolf committed to spending $3 million on a pair of studies to explore the potential health impacts of oil and gas development after families impacted by rare childhood cancers demanded that the state investigate the cause of an apparent increase in rare childhood cancers in communities experiencing shale gas development. The Pennsylvania Department of Health chose the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health to undertake the studies, which became known as the PITT PA HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT STUDIES.
The data collection for these studies concluded in September 2022. The University of Pittsburgh’s public-facing website for the studies has not been updated since then. In early October 2022, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the University of Pittsburgh publicly backed out of a public forum to discuss the progress and process of the studies. Unfortunately, the Department of Health has failed to provide any update on the status of the studies since it declined to participate in the forum. Meanwhile, residents had been led to believe that study results would be made available at the conclusion of the Wolf Administration, which never happened.

Thus, we implore you to provide an update on the status of the studies to the public as soon as possible. Community members have yet to hear directly from either the University of Pittsburgh or the Department of Health since the studies were announced. Given the importance of and the public interest in the results of these studies, the Department of Health must be transparent about their current status. Transparency is necessary to protect the credibility of the studies’ results and taxpayers’ investment.

The residents of the eight-county region included in the study deserve a status update regarding these taxpayer-funded studies designed to examine potential health impacts of human exposure to environmental risk factors, such as oil and gas development. We believe this update is an important step for community inclusion in the research process and that it will strengthen relations with the public, making it easier for researchers to communicate and conduct outreach around the studies’ results.

Every day that our trusted health institutions do not provide information, residents and health providers are left in the dark. It is urgent that the Department issue an update as soon as possible. The timeliness of this status update is imperative, considering that more young people are being diagnosed with rare cancers in the studied communities, all the while the state continues to grant permits for pollution-emitting fossil fuel projects.

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  • Alli Greenlief

    Alli has been a member of CCJ since 2017. A lifelong resident of California, PA, she is looking forward to supporting CCJ and those who advocate for and educate communities like hers. Alli is a veteran of the United States Air Force where she enlisted and served as an air traffic controller. She has a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science with a focus in Archival Studies and a Bachelor's in Art History. She loves traveling, learning, and spending time with her dog, Jack. Contact Alli at alli@centerforcoalfieldjustice.org.

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