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NH congressional delegation pushing for pediatric cancer research

Union Leader Correspondent

July 18. 2018 10:01PM

RYE — Members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation are pushing for federal officials to prioritize pediatric cancer research in light of a report that shows the Granite State has the highest childhood cancer rate in the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report last month that said between 2003 and 2014 incident rates were highest in New Hampshire, the District of Columbia and New Jersey.

New Hampshire reported 206 pediatric cancer cases per 1 million people during that timeframe.

In a letter to Alex Azar, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, joined Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster to bring up a Seacoast pediatric cancer cluster identified by state officials in 2016.

The state released a report in February of that year announcing a cluster of rhabdomyosarcoma and pleuropulmonary blastoma in Rye, New Castle, Portsmouth, Greenland and North Hampton.

A task force was created by then-governor Hassan and by December 2016 officials said they had learned of 20 additional cases in Maine and Massachusetts.

On Monday, the delegation requested information on actions taken by the federal Department of Health and Human Services and relevant sub-agencies to examine underlying factors, including environmental contamination.

“We are very concerned by the potential damaging public health impacts that exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) can have on the health and wellbeing of Granite Staters,” the delegation wrote.

The delegation expressed alarm by recent findings in a draft toxicology study by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry which suggests exposure to certain PFAS chemicals may leave children susceptible to immune system damage. That could play a detrimental role in the human body’s ability to fight off cell infections that cause disease, including cancer.

The delegation requested information specific to contributing factors for pediatric cancers in New Hampshire that may differ from other states, details on any planned action of the U.S. DHHS and details on community outreach and engagement opportunities.

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hosted a regional summit in Exeter on PFAS. Region 1 Administrator Alexandra Dunn promised action by that agency.

Since before the pediatric cancer cluster was announced, parents of children diagnosed with rare cancers on the Seacoast have wondered if there was an environmental connection. Coakley Landfill in Greenland is a Superfund site and what is now Pease International Tradeport served as an Air Force base for 35 years.

Part of the issue, parents have claimed, is the lack of funding for research into pediatric cancers.

Advocates at Children’s Cancer Research Fund in Minneapolis, Minn., report only 4 percent of federal cancer funding is dedicated to childhood cancer.

The research fund’s website says that every week 38 children die from cancer.

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