Canton health department wants to know if there's a cancer cluster near Republic Steel plant

Posted at 4:09 PM, Apr 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-24 16:17:43-04

The Canton City Health Department is collecting information on deaths to determine if there's a cancer cluster in the Georgeview Estates neighborhood. The probe comes after complaints about nearby Republic Steel from residents, including Suzette Smith.

"Too many people! At one particular time or another have died from cancer," Smith told News 5.

MORE: Canton Health Department investigating complaints of dust in the air near Republic Steel

Smith moved into Georgeview Estates, near the steel plant, in 2010. She recently lost her husband to lung cancer. She says he was not a smoker.

According to Smith, her husband is not the person who may be a casualty of lead in dust from the plant.

"This lady over here?" Smith pointed out a former neighbors' homes. "She died from cancer. And right over here, this house? A guy died from cancer."

Neighborhood: Georgeview Estates lies southwest of the Repbulic Steel plant

Is Republic Steel to blame?

"I can't say it's causing cancer, but it is odd so many people are getting cancer," she said.

Smith's concerns are now added to those of other residents; many people are worried about lead. It is  permitted for use in the Republic Steel plant.

Dozens have complained about the increasing amount of dust covering their homes.

News 5 found Republic Steel has several past violations with the EPA, although they are mostly for dust; none are specifically for lead. There have been no cases of lead poisoning reported in the area.

Health investigation

Canton Health Commissioner, Jim Adams, told News 5 his department is collecting data for a cancer assessment in the neighborhood.

"We will use the information from that to identify the type of cancer and the time from of those deaths to see if there's an association between the two," he said.

Adams added that cancer is common, affecting nearly 1 in 3 people.

"We were told that as many as 20 people passed from cancer?" News 5 asked.

"I don't think that's true. We did have a list provided to us of about 20 deaths. They were not all cancer, but we are still looking through that and to see if there's a pattern," Adams answered.

He said the assessment will take at least two to three more weeks. As for the entire health department investigation, he said his department will continue to update the public.