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Mangano: State should expand Bethpage cancer study

The Grumman plant is seen from Thomas Avenue

The Grumman plant is seen from Thomas Avenue in Bethpage, where tests suggest that potentially toxic gases from pollution at the former plant and naval weapons depot have penetrated the basements of at least four homes next to the site. (March 13, 2009) Credit: Jennifer Smith

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said Wednesday night that the state needs to expand the study area in an analysis of cancer rates and environmental exposure in a Bethpage neighborhood.

Mangano's call for additional work on the analysis of an area that borders former Navy and Northrop Grumman manufacturing facilities came as about 120 residents met with State Department of Health officials at Bethpage Senior High School.

"Clearly the study needs to dig deeper," he said. "In my mind there are serious questions that remain unanswered."

Mangano, who had a staff environmental attorney review the study, said he would send a formal letter requesting additional investigation.

State health officials have said that no further cancer studies are planned, and that Wednesday night's meeting was to present the finding, hear comments and take questions.

Regarding Mangano's request, Bill Schwarz, director of public affairs for the department of health, said, "We're going to evaluate all the questions, including that one, and we'll respond."

"We will try to get a better study, a more advanced study," state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) said Wednesday night. But he cautioned that all questions could not be answered given the complexity of the topic, risk factors and duration between exposure and diagnosis.

The report, released Jan. 17, looked at cancer rates in a 19-block area and a separate one-block area. Cases from 1976 to 2009 were evaluated.

Roger Scanlon, 61, was among the residents at Wednesday night's meeting. He said that he lives in the one-block study area and had soil vapors removed from his house after the Navy found contaminants. He had kidney cancer, his wife has breast cancer, two neighbors died of brain cancer and another one suffered from several forms of the disease. He doesn't believe the study was valid. "You can't ignore this little block that got wiped out," he said.

In the larger study area, the number of cases and the most frequent types of cancers diagnosed -- lung, breast and prostate -- are what would normally be expected in adults. In the one-block area, researchers said, the total number of people diagnosed with cancer was what would be expected, except that the average age of diagnosis was younger than what is typical. Given the small population, however, "these results do not provide a clear indication of an unusual pattern of cancers," the report said.

Mangano, a county legislator at the time, and Marcellino requested the study in early 2009 after the Navy reported it had found possible cancer-causing chemicals in air inside and beneath homes near a former Navy drum storage site.

The assessment looked at the area bordered by Stewart Avenue on the east, 11th Street on the west, and north to south from Sycamore to Maple avenues. The two blocks between Ninth and 11th streets from Thomas to Maple also were included.

The one-block area studied separately, from 10th to 11th streets between Maple and Sycamore avenues was where Navy testing in 2009 discovered trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachloroethene (PCE), as well as 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA). It's close to a former Navy drum storage site.