RI Health Department begins analysis to determine a possible cancer cluster
The NBC 10 I-Team has learned that the Rhode Island Department of Health is working with the North Providence school district and Mayor Charles Lombardi's office to gather information on faculty and staff from at least two North Providence schools where 20 teachers and now 20 former students were diagnosed with cancer.
The move comes after an NBC 10 I-Team Investigation questioned if there was a potential link to cancer and sick schools in North Providence.
"The goal of this analysis will be to determine if an abnormal amount of cancer with common environmental origins exists," said Joseph Wendelken, a Rhode Island Health Department spokesman.
"Out of an abundance of caution, given some of the recent media coverage, we are working with the North Providence School Department to get historical information on faculty and staff," he said. "With that information (i.e., those names), we will be able to look at our cancer registry to determine if there was anything abnormal in terms of the cancer rate."
"Our cancer registry is extremely comprehensive and accurate," he said. "It will give us an accurate picture of the cancer rate in any community."
Barbara Morin, a supervising environmental scientist with the health department, previously told the NBC 10 I-Team that the department was at the beginning of its investigation into cancer diagnoses at North Providence schools.
Wendelken said said Morin was accurate in saying that, but that the first step is reaching out to the school department and mayor's office. The health department has not gone out to do any sampling yet.
"Roughly 50 percent of people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer at some point in their lives," Wendelken added. "The goal of this analysis will be to determine if an abnormal amount of cancer with common environmental origins exists."