Kevin Cogley: campaign

A WEXFORD community has arranged an emergency meeting to address concerns over a 'cancer cluster' which locals say has claimed around 120 lives in a single housing estate.

The campaign, which is being spearheaded by former Ireland sprinter and resident Kevin Cogley, is to call in local authority staff in order to address growing unease.

Cogley said that despite the outlandish nature of the concerns, people remain worried about potential health implications.

"So many people in the area have become ill so I put something on Facebook and I got so many hits from people about it," he said. "A few years back, people were talking about it, but people were complaining because they were trying to sell their houses so it was dropped."

Local estimates have put the numbers of deaths in the Liam Mellows Park housing estate at 120. This was accomplished by residents asking door to door although the figures have not been verified by any official body and there is no time frame for the deaths cited.

Those living in the area, however, believe there to be an abnormally high level of people developing cancer.

"That is in one housing estate and there are only 150 houses in it. Nearly every family has been affected by it," said Cogley.

Local councillor Anthony Kelly said the upcoming meeting will have to attract the support of the majority of residents before further investigative steps can be taken.

"But there are other forms of cancer deaths up there so I would be calling for a full environmental inspection of the area," he said.

The phenomena of cancer clusters around the world has long been met with skepticism.

The Irish National Cancer Registry (INCR) refers to them as "an unusual number of cancers occurring during a specific time period among people who live or work together".

"Statisticians at the California Department of Health Services have calculated that there is a 98% chance that a given community will show a statistically significant but totally random elevation in the rate of at least one type of cancer," it said.

"When a statistical test shows there is a significant difference between the observed and the expected number of cases, in many instances the significant difference is due to chance and not to a real hazard in the community."