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NYS DOH study finds higher cancer rates in Tonawanda

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

The State Heath Department has issued a long-awaited study on cancer rates in Tonawanda and areas of Erie County. 

The study reveals some of the highest rates of five types of cancer in the state, especially within the Sheridan-Parkside neighborhood. The report was crafted in response to community concerns about potential health risks from exposure to emissions from nearby industries. 

Clean Air Coalition of Western New York director Erin Heaney says she was not surprised by the findings.

"The study confirms what folks in Tonawanda have been saying for years, that there is a lot of illness in the community.  People are sick and suffering, and that we need action immediately to curb emissions in the town of Tonawanda," said Heaney.

State Department of Environmental Conservation air quality tests indicated high rates of benzene in and around Tonawanda Coke. But the State Health Department report stops short of directly linking the cancers to the pollution.

Heaney said the believe industrial pollution is linked to cancer.

"We know from DEC's independent air monitoring that there are evaluated levels of a number of hazardous air pollutants in the town of Tonawanda.  And while we can't say definitively that they are the only cause of illness in the town, you can't ignore the fact that millions and millions of pounds are pumped out each year in the Town of Tonawanda," said Heaney.

The State Department of Health will hold a public meeting February 26 at 7 p.m. at the Sheridan Parkside Community Center at 169 Parkside Drive, Tonawanda. The Health Department will deliver a short presentation with comments and discussion to follow.