East Side residents want action on so-called ‘cancer cluster’

Local News

People on Buffalo’s far East Side continue to raise concerns about a so-called cancer cluster.

It’s an area near the Cheektowaga border the state says has high rates of cancer, identified from a a cancer registry, which keeps tabs of who has cancer and where they live.

According to the State Department of Health, those who are fighting the disease have colorectal, esophageal, lung, oral, kidney, or prostate cancer.

Virginia Golden lives in the affected area and attended a local informational session Wednesday night to speak up about it. She’s already been trying to raise awareness in her neighborhood for years.
“I had four committed people from the community. And two of them passed on from cancer in the past three to four years,” Golden said.

About two years ago, the University at Buffalo did a soil study in the Delevan-Grider area, right where Golden lives. That study found potential carcinogens in eight of 10 properties tested. Golden wants to see the state do similar testing and go deeper in the ground.

Much of this is near the former American Axle site, part of which is a Superfund cleanup site. On Wednesday, she said the government has to help.

“I want them also to come out and clean it up. Clean up our soil,” Golden, who has lived in the Delevan-Grider area for 40+ years, said.

Legislator Howard Johnson, who’s been on the job for less than two months, says he’s trying. Howard says a non-profit will be awarded a contract next week to start an awareness campaign for the affected area.

That area is described as parts of Masten through Pine Hill and to the Cheektowaga border, between approximately the 33 and Walden Ave.

“The educational outreach will go on as soon as the RFP winner is announced,” Johnson said.

The state and Roswell Park are working on a comprehensive study about the alleged cancer cluster, but results likely won’t be ready for months.

Meanwhile people are getting sick. Attendees of Wednesday’s question and answer session with Howard want to know what’s being done to address lead poisoning and why residents are still allowed to plant urban gardens when there might be contaminants in the ground.

“So we have all of these things happening in the City of Buffalo, and blacks disproportionately die at a higher rate of cancer than whites,” said former East Ferry resident Carolette Meadows.

Meadows, who suffered from Lupus and now lives in South Buffalo, feels strongly demographics and poverty are not blame here, but rather environment factors like lead and PCBs.

She brought with her a state map that shows people are living on sites known to have elevated levels of lead and PCBs.

“I would like to see the state be a little more aggressive in forcing the American Axle cleanup. American Axle continues to be a problem,” Meadows said.

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