PAVE PAWS: Radar Cancer Cluster

GPS data applied to link radar emissions, cancer

June 16, 2006


DENNISPORT - Bernie Young will ask the PAVE PAWS Steering Committee again tomorrow - as he has many times before - why the Air Force is not monitoring the level of radiation coming from the Sagamore facility.

''We're monitoring Pilgrim (Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth), we monitor air quality, and people have to monitor when they put in an alternative septic system, but PAVE PAWS gets a free ride?'' he said.

The Dennisport professional engineer and naval architect took a close look at the phased array radar station after his 20-year-old daughter, Holly, was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in 2004. He concludes there are points of land on Cape Cod that receive more exposure than other areas to microwave radiation from the radar station. And Young thinks that increased direct exposure could be unhealthy for people in those areas.

Young used Global Positioning System computer technology and combined it with the Air Force's own measurements of radiation levels emanating from PAVE PAWS. The one-time measurements were part of a recent study. Young used that data to compare the direct-exposure areas and the location of the residences of 10 Cape Codders diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma.

Young claims all 10 houses are within the increased exposure areas. They are in the direct line of sight of the ''side lobe'' that falls off from the main radar beam as it shoots 3,000 miles out over the Atlantic.

Using a computer program, Young can connect the beam to any point on land and see whether there are any hills or other intervening terrain in between to absorb the radar.

According to his calculations, the three Ewing's cases on the Upper Cape live at high elevations and on a large plateau.

Three other children with the disease in Dennis and Brewster live within 15 feet of elevation to Scargo Hill in Dennis, a plateau 160 feet above sea level that Air Force data show receive the highest level of radiation on Cape, he said.

Many studies since '79 The Air Force, which operates the station designed to pick up incoming missiles and monitor satellites and space junk, has sponsored several studies since it was installed in 1979. All found no adverse health effects from PAVE PAWS. A National Academies of Science report last year determined the radar coming from the station was not behind the elevated cancer rates among Upper Cape residents.

Late last year, a report released by the International Epidemiological Institute found ''no convincing evidence'' that pulsed radar waves emitted by PAVE PAWS are at the root of the Upper Cape's elevated cancer and disease rates.

Ewing's sarcoma is a family of tumors primarily affecting the bone. Most often, Ewing's occurs as a result of a break in certain chromosomes, but researchers have not discovered a cause.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the incidence of the disease is 2.9 in 1 million people. Ninety-fine percent of the cases are in Caucasian children under 21.

According to 2004 U.S. Census figures, just under 50,000 Caucasian children under 21 live in Barnstable County.

Unofficial cancer database Sandwich resident Judy Scichilione, who is compiling an unofficial database of childhood cancer cases on Cape Cod, said her figures show 10 cases of Ewing's have been diagnosed on Cape Cod since 1996. An additional case, in a 33-year-old woman, was diagnosed in 1983, and a 12th case was diagnosed in Edgartown last year.

Scichilione said she is very interested in Young's research, but said she worries that if the focus on the elevated childhood cancer rates is on PAVE PAWS alone, other causes may be missed.

Brian Bondarek of Sandwich, whose daughter was diagnosed with leukemia in 1999, said he believes the radar station may be a piece of the cancer puzzle. A former Desert Storm soldier, he said he supports the military and national security, but thinks the Sagamore radar facility is out-dated and should be shut down.

Young, who sent his findings in a 36-page letter to the state health department, acknowledges that many of his hypotheses are just that.

''This is still speculation, but pretty informed speculation,'' he said.

Robin Lord can be reached at rlord@capecodonline.com .

(Published: June 16, 2006)


June 16, 2006

Research on PAVE PAWS health effects nears end is planned for tomorrow



SAGAMORE - After five years and an expenditure of more than $6 million, tomorrow could be the final chance for Cape Codders to ask the Air Force and local officials health questions about the Cape radar station.

The final meeting of the PAVE PAWS Public Health Steering Group will begin at 8 a.m.

Final presentation

Where: Mashpee Senior Center, 26 Frank E. Hicks Drive, Mashpee

When: 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. tomorrow


8 a.m. Poster session

8:55 a.m. Open meeting,

Broadcast Signal Labs and International Epidemiology Institute presentations, with Q&A from the floor

10 a.m. Coffee break

10:30 a.m. Panel discussion: "Risk Assessment - What Does it Mean to Me?" Presentation of steering group final report. Questions must be submitted on index card before 10 a.m. One question per card, signed.

11:30 a.m. Panel discussion: "Where Do We Go From Here?" Suggestions for future study. Same rules apply for questions.

The steering group - made up of health officials from Cape towns and a state epidemiologist - watched over Air Force-funded research into the radar, which locals worried could be the cause of high cancer rates on the Upper Cape.

Steering group members have declined comment, saying they will wait until tomorrow to give a final public statement about the radar or any further actions that should be taken by the state or the Air Force.

Since a National Academy of Sciences panel found no evidence of adverse health effects from the radar, more research is unlikely to uncover problems, said Lt. Col. Paul Legendre, an Air Force liaison to the steering group. ''There are things we can do that will help further science,'' he said. ''It's just, how loud of a 'no' do you want?''

The PAVE PAWS radar station sits atop Flatrock Hill, scanning the skies for missiles, satellites and space junk. Since it started operating in 1979, residents have questioned whether the radar could cause negative health effects. The debate heated up in the 1990s, as residents concerned with high disease rates on the Cape pushed for research on exposure to radiation from the radar.

The Air Force formed the steering group five years ago to help lead research on the radar and provide a public forum on the research efforts. Since then, researchers have characterized the radiation and estimated the exposure Cape Codders experience.

Later work by the International Epidemiological Institute compared exposure estimates and disease rates and determined there was no convincing evidence that PAVE PAWS caused health problems.

Last year, the National Academy of Sciences, an independent research organization, concluded the radar is not responsible for elevated Cape cancer rates, or developmental or neurobehavioral effects. The report suggested long-term exposure testing on animals and disease-trend analysis could address lingering concerns.

Legendre didn't rule out more research, but no specific work is planned. ''We feel pretty confident now we did due diligence to the community and this radar is not a health problem to the community,'' he said yesterday.

Richard Albanese, an Air Force researcher who has raised concerns as a private citizen about PAVE PAWS, wants a more expansive epidemiological study on the facility to ease Cape residents' lingering safety fears.

Albanese said yesterday that the steering group has asked him to censor his comments about the radar research. He said the steering group asked him to remove information from a poster he submitted for tomorrow's public meeting, including elements challenging the accuracy of radar exposure analysis led by the steering group.

The four most active steering group members did not return phone calls yesterday.

Albanese has refused to change the poster for the session. He will be listening to the discussion from his Texas home via teleconference. ''They don't want him muddying the waters,'' David Dow of the Cape Cod Sierra Club said of Albanese. ''Since it's their meeting, they want a unified message.''

Amanda Lehmert can be reached at alehmert@capecodonline.com.

(Published: June 16, 2006)

Informant: Blake Levit


Cancer study triggers debate


Cancer study triggers debate

Informant: Martin Weatherall



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