Flower Mound cancer study flawed, UT researcher says

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by TODD UNGER

Bio | Email | Follow: @toddWFAA8

WFAA

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 9:56 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 31 at 10:50 PM

FLOWER MOUND — Families with children who are battling cancer may be searching for even more answers after reading a just-published study from a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin.

Authored by Rachael Rawlins, the report concludes that there is a 95 percent likelihood that there were increased rates of leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in children in Flower Mound between 1997 and 2009.

The finding was only one in a larger conclusion that effectively said the state needs to revamp how it conducts public health studies.

"That really is important," said Rawlins in a Skype interview with News 8. "We should think about looking carefully at toxic emissions in relation to effects."

In 2010, News 8 profiled a number of Flower Mound families who had children suffering from cancer.

Some were adamant that fracking operations in the area were at least partly to blame.

"You see the families at the clinic, and the similarities. They either lived by a drilling facility, or have it in their backyard," said Sheri Schmidt in a 2010 interview.

Of particular concern was the emission of benzene.

The city convinced state health officials to conduct a study, but the state's analysis found the number of cancer cases among kids was not higher than in other parts of Texas.

Rawlins now says that finding was flawed.

"They used a 99 percent confidence interval," she said. "Scientific convention generally defines statistical significance using the 95 percent confidence interval."

Rawlins' study doesn't go so far as to link the higher cancer cases to fracking; it only points out that a further review of the data suggests there is a 95 percent chance that the concentrated cancer cases were not random.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said it would need to read through the entire research study but did say in part that:

“Our cancer experts and epidemiologists issued the state’s analysis in 2010 in response to community concerns at the time. This type of analysis looks at whether there is more cancer in the area that we would expect, not whether there is association with environmental or other risk factors."

The City of Flower Mound said it wasn't aware of the study until it was published, but that it was treating the review as a "critical priority."

City officials promised an update later this week.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com

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