ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KSDK) - New details have developed regarding the health and welfare of thousands of people who grew up in north St. Louis County near Cold Water Creek.
For more than a year, NewsChannel 5 has been covering the reported high cancer rates in North County, and Wednesday night, the Director of the St. Louis County Health Department, Dr. Delores Gunn, tells NewsChannel 5, she has hired three epidemiologists to investigate.
She told us after Janell Wright and a group of her class of '88 classmates from McCluer North produced alarming data obtained through their Facebook page, she was convinced more investigation was needed.
Dr. Gunn said, 'I want to make sure we get the resources and responses the community needs because we all want to know what's going on in our environment."
When KSDK started covering Coldwater Creek and the possible link to cancer, there were 10 members on the Facebook page. Now, there are more than 10,000.
One of the rare cancers identified in North County is appendix cancer, which is linked to radiation exposure.
Typically, there are 1,000 cases of appendix cancer reported a year in the United States. In North County, there are 40 reports on the Facebook page, but the data isn't scientific.
The County epidemiologists will take an approach based on standard and accepted protocols to determine whether there is a connection.
In the 1940s, Mallinckrodt Chemical Works in downtown St. Louis purified thousands of tons of uranium to make the first atomic bombs, but the process also generated enormous amounts of radioactive waste.
Citing national security, the government quietly ordered the material moved to north St. Louis County in 1947. Twenty-one acres of airport land became a dumping site where a toxic mixture of uranium, thorium and radium sat uncovered or in barrels.
In the 1960s, government documents noted contents from the rusting barrels were seeping into nearby Coldwater Creek. By the 1990s, the government confirmed unsafe levels of radioactive materials in the water.
Dr. Gunn says the epidemiologists will team up with Washington University and state investigators on this project. While the state has investigated in the past and found no link to the creek and cancer rates, Dr. Gunn believes the project needs to cover decades dating back to the '70s and '80s.
The state's investigation only covered a short time frame.