St. Clair County is a predominantly rural county in eastern Lower Michigan, just north of Detroit, within the southern portion of the “Thumb” region. It is, for the most part, visually idyllic — farmlands, dotted with small towns, are bordered to the east by the St. Clair River and on the south by Lake St. Clair. Another feature of the region, though–one that is not so readily apparent–is the fact that the eastern portion of the county lies across the river and downstream from Sarnia, Ontario’s “Chemical Valley.”
On June 2, 2011, a Public Forum was organized by St. Clair County in response to repeated requests by parents concerned about a rare cancer that had appeared in the county — especially in the riverside town of Marine City. This cancer, Wilms Tumor, is a rare kidney disease that effects mainly children. The County, in consultation with the CDC, had already determined that the occurrence of this cancer was higher than expected in that geographical region — high enough to qualify it as a cancer cluster. The Forum was for the purpose of educating the public on Wilms Tumor, responding to questions, and hearing comments and concerns from community members and — most importantly — from parents and grandparents of Wilms patients. Additionally, the panel informed the public of actions being taken at the federal, state, and county levels. Since that meeting, a grassroots group called Mothers Against Childhood Cancer (M.A.C.C.) has formed for the purpose of raising awareness about Wilms and other cancers, seeking answers to questions about the cancer cluster, and providing support to those who have been touched by Wilms tumor and other childhood cancers. Their website can be found here: http://mothersagainstchildhoodcancer.org/ .
This portion of the “Great Lakes Environmental Justice: Focus on the St. Clair Channel” website seeks to educate and inform any interested parties about the environmental, social, and political aspects surrounding this cluster. To that end we have compiled several resources and have shared some ideas about possible factors that may be at work in this complex and troubling case.
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