“PORTSMOUTH — The state Department of Health and Human Services confirmed in February 2016 that it had identified a cancer cluster on the Seacoast involving two rare pediatric cancers.

Then in May 2017, state Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan acknowledged there were seven brain or central nervous system pediatric cancers detected in the towns of Rye, New Castle, Portsmouth, Greenland and North Hampton during a period when they expected to see 3.1. He determined this did not represent another cancer cluster because the cancers were different types of brain cancers.

At the same time, DHS officials said they didn’t find any common exposure linking the cancers, which have already killed several Seacoast children.

Dr. Tom Sherman, a former state representative from Rye who chaired the Seacoast Pediatric Cancer Cluster formed by then-Gov. Maggie Hassan, believes “it’s a complete mistake to feel terribly reassured by anything we’ve learned so far.”

‘The lack of knowledge does not equate to safety,’ he said. ‘Just because we haven’t identified a common link or environmental trigger doesn’t mean there isn’t one. We just don’t know yet. We do know that too many kids got sick.’

When Sherman looks back at the work his commission did, he comes away with two conclusions.

‘Number one, I believe it’s real. Number two, the continuing instances of brain cancers in children are very concerning,’ he said…

The task force’s work led to concerns being raised about contamination leaching from the Coakley landfill, a 27-acre Superfund cleanup site in North Hampton and Greenland.

Tests done on wells at the landfill have found PFAS chemicals and 1,4-dioxane – both suspected carcinogens – at levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory levels. PFAS chemicals in Berry’s Brook at the edge of the dump tested dramatically higher than the EPA’s health advisory levels.

State Rep. Mindi Messmer, D-Rye, who chaired a subcommittee on the landfill, noted during a recent interview that the landfill ‘lies geographically right smack in the middle of this cancer cluster.'”

Read the full article by Jeff McMenemy.