Senate passes amendment to add $1M in funding for cancer cluster investigations


WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 20: The U.S. Capitol is seen in the morning hours January 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. The U.S. government is being shut down after the Senate failed to pass a resolution to temporarily fund the government through February 16. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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FRANKLIN, Ind. — Legislation impacting the investigation of potential cancer clusters has passed the U.S. Senate, as families in Johnson County raise questions about pediatric cancer cases there.

Senators Joe Donnelly and Mike Crapo advocated for an amendment in an appropriations bill for multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services. It would provide $1 million to HHS for the implementation of Trevor’s Law. It would also double current funding for the CDC’s efforts to reduce childhood lead poisoning.

“It’s critical that Hoosier children have the best possible chance at a healthy life and a bright future, and that requires us to be vigilant in reducing exposures to harmful environmental factors beyond their control. That’s why I’m pleased the Senate passed this bipartisan bill, including my amendment that would help ensure Trevor’s Law is implemented in order to improve the way federal, state, and local governments and the public work to investigate and address potential cancer clusters. This legislation also is important because it would increase funding for CDC’s efforts to reduce childhood lead poisoning,” Sen. Donnelly said in a statement.

Trevor’s Law was passed in 2016 as part of the Toxic Substances Control Act. It helps federal agencies coordinate with state and local agencies in investigating potential cancer clusters. It also required HHS to develop criteria for the designation of cancer clusters and update guidelines for the investigation of potential clusters.

“Unfortunately for these families, many of whom I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to get to know, Trevor’s Law has not yet been implemented, that’s why I’m offering a simple amendment,” Sen. Donnelly said Wednesday on the Senate floor while speaking about families in Johnson County.

The organization If It Was Your Child said it’s counted 54 pediatric cancer cases in Johnson County since 2008, with 22 of those in Franklin. It was started by the step-mom of Zane Davidson, who battled Leukemia, and mother Emma Grace Findley, who died of brain cancer at age 13.

“This amendment will provide the appropriations for us to put Trevor’s Law into place and then once provided as possible clusters which is what Trevor’s law redefines, then those communities, such as Johnson County or Franklin, are eligible for more grants, more funding, that kind of thing,” co-founder Stacie Davidson, Zane’s step-mom, previously said.

However, the Indiana State Department of Health said it hasn’t found evidence of a cancer cluster. It writes this on its website:

“…ISDH’s current guidelines for responding to inquiries related to suspected cancer clusters align with the 2013 guidelines from the CDC and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. These guidelines have not changed since the passage of Trevor’s Law. The ISDH will continue to monitor for new guidance or changes in resources provided by federal partners.”

ISDH said the Indiana Cancer Registry shows 126 cases of pediatric cancer in Johnson County between 2001 and 2015.

ISDH has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to help in relation to cancer concerns in Franklin. CDC staff is reviewing ISDH’s report from December 2017 to determine whether it’s consistent with CDC’s 2013 guidelines.

“Senator Donnelly and Senator Crapo put politics aside and worked together to help communities facing potential cancer clusters,” said Sarah Vogel, Vice President of EDF Health said in a statement. “It’s the kind of bi-partisan work that’s needed to protect the health of American families. That’s how we passed the chemical safety law in 2016, and we need more of it today.”

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