Cancer Clusters and Congress

CURE, Summer 2013, Volume 12, Issue 2

Legislation introduced in the Senate aims to provide support to investigating cancer clusters.

The biographical movie Erin Brockovich brought attention to the environmental activist's efforts to hold accountable a power company accused of contaminating the drinking water in a southern California town, which had been associated with a "disease cluster." Recent legislation introduced in the Senate is aimed at providing more support to investigating such areas and determining whether there is a connection between certain diseases, such as cancer, and concentrations of toxic substances in specific geographic locations.

Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Mike Crapo of Idaho co-sponsored the "Strengthening Protections for Children and Communities from Disease Clusters Act," which directs the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase disease clusters investigations and to create partnerships between government agencies and educational institutions to study such areas. This bill, informally known as Trevor's Law and supported by the Trevor's Trek Foundation, was introduced in the previous congressional session but did not come up for a vote.

Boxer and Crapo also introduced the "Community Disease Cluster Assistance Act," which allows the EPA to provide technical assistance grants to communities. These grants would help leaders better interpret information on disease clusters and educate communities about toxic substances and environmental pollutants.

[Read what defines a "cancer cluster"]

In a statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Boxer said she hopes "this bipartisan legislation will help our communities investigate and address devastating disease clusters as quickly as possible."