Cancer cluster in Oroville

Warning sign outside Koppers plant

Warning sign outside Koppers plant

The discovery of a cluster of pancreatic-cancer cases in Oroville has state and local health officials hunting for an environmental cause, with initial attention focused on the Koppers wood-treatment plant, a former Superfund site that closed in 2001.

An analysis of state cancer data showed found 23 cases of the pancreatic disease in 2004 and ’05, twice the expected number.

Beginning in 1973, officials found significant amounts of carcinogenic pentachlorophenol and other toxic chemicals in residential wells near the Koppers plant. State health officials emphasize, however, that no link has yet been found to any particular environmental hazard.

Diabetics, smokers and the obese are at higher risk for pancreatic cancer, reports the Butte County Public Health Department in a press release, but “[s]tudies of associations with occupations exposures have had inconclusive results.”