SALEM — Residents are petitioning for water and soil testing in West Salem, where young people have been diagnosed with a rare bone cancer in recent years.
Among the victims was Lisa Harder, 17, a senior and homecoming queen at West Salem High School who died earlier this month.
State and federal health authorities are discussing the request, the Salem Statesman Journal reported.
One petition at West Salem High School has about 600 signatures. A second petition online has nearly 800.
Lynnette Miller, who has a daughter at the school, started the online petition.
“The comments that people are writing, you just hear the pleas," Miller told KGW-TV. “Please, please do something, find out what it is."
Oregon’s state epidemiologist, Dr. Katrina Hedberg, said there have been three or four confirmed cases in recent years, which is not statistically unusual, given the way the cases are divided between two counties and among separate census tracts.
And while any pollutants uncovered as a result of testing ought to be cleaned up, the process wouldn’t tell health officials what caused the cancers, she said.
“We don’t know what chemicals cause osteosarcoma," she said.
“I feel for these families and these kids. It’s an extremely difficult thing to have a child with cancer," Hedberg said. “That’s the backdrop to it, and I understand why people are wracking their brains or trying to assess what the cause of it might be."
EPA spokesman Mark MacIntyre said the agency had only recently learned of the concern in Salem.
It’s difficult to know what sort of action the agency will take until the petition is received, he said.
“Before we get petitions from people, we don’t do a lot of speculating," he said.