BERKELEY, Mo. — Jermont Cannon laid still on his back Tuesday as the machine around him whirred. He is back at Siteman Cancer Center for a CT scan of the tumor doctors found earlier this year.
"They told me I have Stage 4 gastrointestinal cancer," Cannon said. "I have a tumor on the left side of my intestines."
He said from the very beginning his doctor pointed to a likely culprit, and he now looks around his own street saying "being in this area, being in this North County area."
Specifically, he means the area near Coldwater Creek, where uranium mining waste — with low-level radioactivity — was dumped during atomic bomb development.
People who lived and played along a North St. Louis County creek long suspected it. Now a government study confirms it: contamination at Coldwater Creek could lead to higher rates of lung cancer, bone cancer, and leukemia.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, ATSDR, concluded in its final public health assessment report, "Evaluation of Community Exposures Related to Coldwater Creek", that "residents who regularly played or lived along the creek for many years in the past may have an increased risk of lung cancer, bone cancer, or leukemia. Residents who lived along the creek more recently may have an increased risk of lung cancer."
Siteman's Dr. Adetunji Toriola studies the spread of disease and says the ATSDR study ran numbers and data to show contamination could cause higher rates of disease but did not attempt to conclude if the higher rates exist.
He urges anyone who notices a change in their heath to contact a doctor.
"If they have any concerns, the doctors should be able to direct them to the next face of action and what they need to do," Toriola said.
The ATSDR study says only certain types of illnesses would have been caused by contamination, not the type of cancer that Cannon has. But as an otherwise healthy 30-year-old, he believes there has got to be something in the water at Coldwater Creek.
"My doctor told me I am one of the youngest patients to be diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer," Cannon said.
Cannon says he's keeping the faith during his treatment, attending church with his family -- "I wake up every day hoping He gives me another day," Cannon said -- especially as he gears up for another challenge: mounting medical bills.
RELATED: Coldwater Creek contamination: Legal options for residents outside the statute of limitations