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Flower Mound wants state to review new report on cancer cluster

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Flower Mound officials are seeking a formal review from state health officials on a new research paper questioning the accuracy of the state’s 2010 cancer cluster study.

Rachael Rawlins, a University of Texas at Austin lecturer and researcher, questioned various procedures and measurement methods used by the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) in its 2010 “Texas Cancer Registry Study” conducted in Flower Mound.

The TDSHS analysis found that the occurrence of leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and childhood brain cancers in two ZIP codes in Flower Mound was within the expected ranges.

Rawlins said that Flower Mound children actually have a significantly higher risk of leukemia and lymphoma than health officials acknowledged four years ago. Read her report here.

While conducting her research, Rawlins sought the state’s opinion on her report but was provided no feedback, town officials said.

Flower Mound is one of thousands of communities located within the Barnett Shale, a 5,000-square mile region that encompasses more than 20 counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area known to be rich in natural gas. Flower Mound was the only municipality to request such a study in relation to gas drilling and its effects on public health.

“Flower Mound has been a leader when it comes to municipal oil and gas drilling regulations,” said Mayor Tom Hayden. “Many other communities, including Dallas, have followed our lead by passing similar drilling ordinances with the common goal of protecting public health. We’ve also remained vigilant about monitoring air quality levels in the Town, and have the highest level of air quality scrutiny in the Barnett Shale, and possibly Texas.”

Town officials along with Denton County Commissioner Andy Eads and representatives from State Rep. Tan Parker’s office and State Sen. Jane Nelson’s office participated in a conference call with Rawlins on Thursday afternoon.

Sen. Nelson indicated she plans to seek formal feedback and a response by the state agency as well. TDSHS is the only agency municipalities can effectively use for such a study, as they are the only organization that has access to confidential patient health records, which are protected by privacy laws. In addition, studies, such as the Flower Mound report, represent a snapshot in time and cannot be recreated.

The purpose of Rawlins’ research was to determine if the state’s methods were correct to accurately make a determination, and to examine whether or not municipalities, such as Flower Mound, have the proper amount of local control to regulate gas drilling.

Flower Mound currently has 15 active gas drilling pad sites. Rawlins praised the town’s efforts to continually address drilling operations.

“To date, the town has never had any elevated air quality levels of chemicals of concern at pad sites since Flower Mound began air monitoring measures in 2010,” said Environmental Services Director Matt Woods.

“We hope other municipalities continue to emulate what we’re doing and we’ll keep looking for new ways to be on the forefront of protecting our residents’ health, whether it’s through independent action or partnerships with other communities or the state,” said Hayden.

 

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