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Chatham advises Bynum water source issues addressed in mid-1970s

Posted Saturday, April 2, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - Chatham County Health Director Holly Coleman wants Bynum residents to know that the report presented to U.S. Congress yesterday on a “cancer cluster” observed by researchers over 20 years ago in the Bynum community is not a continued health risk.

The report cited study data from 1980-85, which looked at the impact of some residents consuming untreated river water periodically until 1976, when residents were advised to discontinue this practice. The Town of Pittsboro also made public treated water available to the Bynum area around the same time.

The report presented to the U.S. Congress yesterday by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) highlights a 1990 study which found above average cancer rates in the Bynum area from 1980-1985. The report links the higher cancer rates to residents who drank the untreated river water from 1947-1976. The Bynum study was one of over 30 disease clusters in 13 states included in the latest NRDC report.

Chatham Public Health Director Holly Coleman said, “The NRDC report itself states the source of the higher cancer rates in the area during the 1980s was believed to be linked to residents regularly drinking untreated river water in prior years. The report also notes that this practice stopped in 1976. Based on these points alone, we have no reason to believe that these health concerns continue today.”

The 1990 study cited by the NRDC says that about two-thirds of the local residents told researchers that they drank untreated river water beginning in 1947 after a typhoid epidemic.

The NRDC report did not provide any health data after 1985 from Bynum or Chatham County, nor did it point out that many residents in and around Bynum have used public treated drinking water since the 1990s. The cancer incidence rate in Chatham County for the most recent five-year period reported is below the state average. For (2004-2008), the rate in Chatham was 375.3 per 100,000 population, compared to the state rate of 495.2 per 100,000 population.

“Cancer rates in that area of the county may have been an issue in 1980-85 as a result of the water source problem in the mid-century, but we have no data to support a higher rate of cancer in the county or in Bynum at this time,” Coleman said.

Coleman added that the Public Health Department has not received any related reports or concerns about this from the Bynum community.

Today, the Bynum area has access to treated public water through both the Town of Pittsboro and Chatham County.

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Chatham advises Bynum water source issues addressed in mid-1970s
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