About this series: The Northwest Herald today begins a six-part series on the McCullom Lake brain cancer lawsuits.
This special report is the result of a six-month investigation by the newspaper. Senior reporter Kevin Craver acquired and reviewed thousands of pages of documentation spanning more than three decades.
Craver and videographer Danielle Guerra interviewed more than 60 people, including most of the 22 plaintiffs, or their next of kin, who have filed suit to date. Craver and Guerra traveled to Phoenix and Philadelphia to conduct some of the interviews.
The chemicals listed in the McCullom Lake brain cancer lawsuits sound more like tongue twisters or the stuff of science fiction than health hazards.
However, the existence of vinyl chloride, vinylidene chloride, and trichloroethylene in groundwater flowing from two Ringwood manufacturers is not fiction, but fact. Vinylidene chloride, also known as 1,1-DCE, has been traced to the closed landfill at Rohm and Haas, and trichloroethylene, or TCE, has been traced to Modine Manufacturing Co.’s closed disposal pit.
It also is scientific fact that both chemicals, which do not occur naturally, break down into vinyl chloride, which studies since the 1960s have tied to certain cancers.
Vinyl chloride is not something you would want to ingest. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer list vinyl chloride as a known human carcinogen. The EPA sets the minimum safe level in drinking water at zero – in short, no amount is safe.
But does vinyl chloride cause brain cancer? The answers fall along predictable lines in the lawsuits.