Residents investigate cancer rates near Michigan landfill

Pamela Anderson, 56, talks in Grand Haven, Mich. Anderson lived on Indiana Avenue SW near the Butterworth Landfill in Grand Rapids as a teenager. She and her childhood friends from the neighborhood are concerned about cancer rates in their families. (Cory Morse/Grand Rapids Press via AP)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A group of residents is investigating cancer rates in a western Michigan neighborhood that’s near a contaminated landfill classified as a Superfund site.
Muskegon resident Pamela Anderson said that after hearing about numerous cases, she started a Facebook group about cancer deaths among people who live or have lived near the Butterworth landfill site in Grand Rapids. They plan to bring up the issue at a city commission meeting this week, the Grand Rapids Press reported .
The group recently met with Kent County Health Department epidemiologist Brian Hartl, who advised them to collect more information on cancer rates in the area.
“If there are rare forms of cancer, or cancers we’re seeing affect a young population, it might trigger further investigation,” Hartl said.
But he cautioned that cancer is difficult to study, and that it can take years and multiple triggers to emerge.
“Especially in small areas like a neighborhood or a block, it makes it challenging to connect it to environmental exposure,” Hartl said. “Most cancers are due to lifestyle choices, not environmental factors.”
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that theoretical cancer and health risks from the landfill exist, but that they’re limited to regular direct contact with the waste over several decades.