N 2011, residents across an American community in St Louis began to notice a chain of inexplicably high incidents of cancer and disease across its population.
For decades, both former and current residents from approximately 90 municipalities in the Missouri city were diagnosed with a long list of life-threatening illnesses, including leukaemia, lupus, brain tumours, appendix cancer, multiple sclerosis, birth defects and many more. People died. Babies died. And they’re still dying to this day, dubbed “the poison children of Coldwater Creek.”
But no one ever connected the dots as to what was really making these innocent people sick.
“You’ll never forget the moment they tell you, ‘We found lesions on your lung and your liver,’” Mary Oscko, who has stage 4 lung cancer, told CBS News.
“My husband and I had to sit down at night and discuss whether I want to be cremated or buried. I don’t want to be buried in North County, that’s the one thing I told him — I do not want to be buried where this soil is.”
In 1942, during the height of World War II, a corporation by the name of Mallinckrodt Chemical Works was hired by the US government to process uranium for the development of the world’s first nuclear weapons. The operation was dubbed ‘The Manhattan Project.’
According to a 1990 article in the New York Times, the toxic waste was dumped secretly with the approval of the federal government.
“If you have really low doses of radiation and you ingest it, over time it builds in your body. Once it gets in your body it never leaves, it’s like arsenic poisoning. It’s not one ingestion, it’s over and over, then it mutates and you end up with these cancers.
“We’re showing up with these really rare cancers, and really high rates at really young ages.”
In 2011, with the advent of Facebook, residents from the community began to reconnect and after sharing stories, they noticed a strange phenomena — unexplained high incidences of rare cancers.
Soon enough, one little Facebook page grew from simply getting back in touch, to the alarming realisation that more than 2700 residents reported rare incidents of illness. This was becoming a cancer cluster of epic proportions: 45 cases of appendix cancer, 184 cases of brain cancer, 315 cases of thyroid cancer, 448 cases of auto-immune disease, and so on.
Residents are hoping to access Downwinder status, a program set up by the US Department of Justice to compensate victims of World War II testing. Other cities in the United States, like Arizona, Nevada and Utah have received approval, but St Louis is not yet on the map.