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Henry County Health Department
1201 Race Street, Suite 208
New Castle, IN 47362

Office Phone: 765-521-7059

 

Office Hours
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
**Closed from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. for lunch

 

 

Our Mission
The Henry County Health Department provides information and services without discrimination to our public for their wellness, protection, and education.

 

  

Unusual Color Appearing in Drainage Run-off Confirmed to be Harmless Tracing Dye

 

New Castle, Indiana - December 2, 2015 – A Facebook post was the source of some confusion earlier this week, when a Henry County resident posted a photo of green water flowing through a small creek south of New Castle. As her series of photos showed, the water appeared to be a bright green color, but soon returned to its natural state.

 

This situation was brought to the attention of the Henry County Health Department. With further investigation, the Department confirmed that the liquid seen in the creek was tracing dye from a nearby county project. Local contractor Keith Pritchett was working with the county to repair a drain tile near I-70. As they were in the final stages of the repair, the crew conducted a standard test to follow the water run-off to ensure it was flowing under busy State Road 3 and the I-70 bypass, resulting in safer driving conditions. With the repair, the water now flows exactly as it should. It is possible that residents may see this type of testing in the future, and it should not be a cause for alarm.

 

The dye is not a threat to humans or the environment, and reacted in exactly the manner in which it was designed. This dye is often used by plumbers and home inspectors to check the flow of water. The dye is actually the same type of product used to dye the canal in downtown Indianapolis for St. Patrick’s Day.

 


Residents should always feel free to contact County officials with any similar concerns. Any questions regarding this particular incidence may be directed to the Planning Commission at 765.529.7408.

 

Summary of the Indiana State Department of Health Investigation

 

Steps Taken to Date:

  • Analyzing cases of glioblastoma and other brain cancers reported to the Indiana State Cancer Registry since 1999
  • Working with local health officials to gather information
  • Examining mapping data for local water supplies in response to concerns about well water
  • Interviewing people with knowledge of recent glioblastoma diagnoses
  • The investigation has also considered the risk factors associated with glioblastoma
  • ISDH is working to contact 30 people identified through the Indiana State Cancer Registry and the community meeting held in Henry County on Nov. 4.

Findings to Date:

  • The cancer registry identified 26 people who were diagnosed with glioblastoma in the 14 year period between 1999 and 2013
  • Six additional patients were diagnosed in 2014 and 2015 according to the registry, and found through interviews with Henry County residents
  • The number of illnesses is less than would be expected for the population and geographic area

ISDH is working to contact 30 people identified through the Indiana State Cancer Registry and the community meeting held in Henry County on Nov. 4. So far, their staff has conducted about a dozen phone interviews with residents affected by glioblastoma and has left messages or scheduled interviews for several other individuals.

ISDH staff is still attempting to contact about a dozen people who have been identified as being affected in some way by a glioblastoma diagnosis. They are having difficulty reaching family members of those whose diagnoses occurred many years ago, because of a lack of current contact information.
It’s important that anyone who believes they should be part of the glioblastoma investigation contact ISDH Cancer Epidemiologist Amanda Raftery at 317-234-2796 as soon as possible.

 

 

Henry County Cancer Investigation: Frequently Asked Questions

The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) has been investigating glioblastoma cases in Henry County since late July after a resident called to express concern that several people in close proximity had been diagnosed with the same type of brain cancer. The resident expressed concern that a “cancer cluster” existed and wanted to know whether anything in the environment was causing the illnesses.

What is cancer?
Cancer refers to a group of diseases in which abnormal cells in the body divide without control and may invade other parts of the body. Science has identified more than 100 different kinds of cancer, many of which have different – and most of the time, unknown – causes. 

What is glioblastoma?
Glioblastoma is a type of brain cancer that arises from the cells that make up the supportive tissue of the brain. It is generally found in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain but can be found anywhere in the brain or on the spinal cord. Not all brain cancers are glioblastomas. You can learn more about glioblastoma at
http://bit.ly/1GWsVbo.

What are the risk factors for glioblastoma?
The only known environmental risk factor for glioblastoma is exposure to high levels of ionized radiation, which is used for medical treatments.  This is not the same kind of radiation found in cell phones, microwaves or electric lines, which is electromagnetic radiation.  Hereditary and immune system factors may also contribute to the development of glioblastoma.

What is a cancer cluster?
The term cancer cluster is used in several ways, with slightly different meanings. Cancer clusters may be suspected when people report that several family members, friends, neighbors or coworkers have been diagnosed with the same or related cancer(s). The official definition used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute and other public health institutions is: “A cancer cluster occurs when a greater-than-expected number of cancer cases occurs within a group of people or a geographic area over a defined period of time.”  Additional indicators of a potential cancer cluster would be an excess number of cases of the same cancer among people of an age group that normally would not have that kind of cancer and an environmental exposure related to the cancers of concern in the area. 

How many suspected cancer clusters does ISDH investigate each year?
Since June 2011, ISDH has received inquiries for 28 suspected cancer clusters. No cancer cluster has ever been identified in Indiana.

How do you determine the expected number of cancers for an area?
This is not a number that is decided on by any individual or organization. The expected number is calculated using cancer data from the Indiana State Cancer Registry. Federal law requires most types of cancer to be reported to the registry. Epidemiologists use this data, which includes information including age, race, sex and location. This helps identify cancer trends, which can be compared and analyzed. This analysis is a key step in determining whether the number of cancers in a community is higher than expected. Even with this information, it’s important to remember that there are limits to data. Having a higher-than-expected cancer rate doesn’t necessarily mean that a cancer cluster exists or that there is a scientific or environmental cause for the cancers in a community.  It takes time for cancer cases to be reported to the Registry, and information contained in the Registry is confidential.  The ISDH relies on individuals who have cancer or close family members of those who have cancer to share contact information so we can follow up appropriately.

How do you conduct an investigation like this?
The State Department of Health follows a protocol that aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Guidelines for Investigating Clusters of Health Events,” but every suspected cancer cluster is unique. Whenever we receive an inquiry, we start by examining data in the Indiana State Cancer Registry to identify the number of people diagnosed with a particular illness. We compare that number with the general population and look at age, race, population and other factors to determine the number of illnesses that would be expected for the area. We also examine known risk factors for a particular kind of cancer and use data and interviews to determine whether those might be present. We take additional steps if scientifically warranted. Staff trained in data analysis, environmental health, medicine, oncology, cancer control and other areas are consulted.

Can water and soil testing show what’s causing cancers in a community?
Testing in any cancer investigation is unlikely to pinpoint a cause because there are so many variables behind people’s illnesses. Nationally, only a few investigations have clearly identified an underlying environmental cause. All of those exposures were occupational or medical; none occurred in the community.  For some cancers, like glioblastoma, little is known about the cause, so it is difficult to know what substances to test for.  Sampling only gives a “snapshot in time” of conditions when that sample was taken and doesn’t past levels.  If something is found, and many different things are expected to be found in soil and water that naturally occur, that doesn’t mean that particular substance is the cause of the cancer. 

Is there a cancer cluster in Henry County?
Based on our investigation to this point, the number of people diagnosed with glioblastoma is less than would be expected for the population and geographic area. We continue to explore other information to determine whether there are any common exposures among the individuals who have been diagnosed with this disease.

If there’s no evidence of a cluster, why are so many people in Henry County sick?
Glioblastoma is rarer than other cancers, but cancers in general tend to affect most people at some point in their lifetime. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in Indiana, and two out of every five Indiana residents will eventually develop a form of cancer. Age, genetics and lifestyle choices can affect one’s chances of developing cancer. It’s often difficult to pinpoint a specific cause because of the many factors that come into play. We know behaviors such as smoking significantly increase risk. But even then, not everyone who smokes develops cancer.

How long does an investigation like this take?
An investigation into a suspected cancer cluster can typically take six months, but that timeframe can be affected by complexities of the investigation and difficulty getting information about individuals who have been diagnosed. ISDH is committed to taking the time needed to conduct a thorough, methodical, scientific investigation.

Should we have our water and soil tested?
We always urge anyone who uses well water to maintain their wells and perform regular testing. It’s important to know what you’re looking for and to understand that tests are likely to find some type of environmental contaminant because of industrial activities that have affected water for centuries. That might mean your water needs to be treated, but it likely won’t tell you whether those elements played any role in the illnesses.

Environmental testing alone can’t determine if cancer or other disease outcomes may be related. Without precise information about actual human exposure, it is difficult to determine how much impact, if any, contaminants might have had on cancer rates in the community.

Who can I contact if I have a family member who should be part of this investigation?
Anyone in Henry County who has a family member diagnosed with glioblastoma who has not already contacted ISDH should call Cancer Epidemiologist Amanda Raftery at (317) 234-2796 or email her at araftery@isdh.in.gov.