The Urgent Need for Answers: Satellite Beach's Cancer Assessment Raises Questions

SATELLITE BEACH, FL., After witnessing an alarming prevalence of disease rates and the presence of PFAS chemicals in the groundwater at Patrick Air Force Base, a nonprofit organization called Fight for Zero was established. This organization was formed by a coalition of cancer survivors from Brevard County and Satellite Beach High School in 2018. According to the Department of Defense, monitoring wells at Patrick AFB revealed the country's third-highest concentration of perfluorinated compounds, measuring 4.3 million ppt. In comparison, the advisory limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency are only 70 parts per trillion. 

The group believed that the chances of Satellite Beach being classified as a "cancer cluster" were unlikely. Wikipedia states that since 1917, there have only been 19 confirmed instances of cancer clusters worldwide.  

Florida has the second-highest cancer burden in the US, as stated by the Florida Department of Health. Since 2011, cancer has become the primary cause of death for Floridians, surpassing heart disease. Despite the Brevard County Cancer Assessment indicating a higher occurrence of cancer in that specific region, a state health inquiry concluded that there was no indication of a "cancer cluster" in the two zip codes they investigated. 

Victoria Sittig, a former student of Satellite High School who is currently battling cancer, argues that it would be unreasonable to disregard the potential consequences of PFAS chemicals on humans. This is reinforced by scientific research indicating the presence of harmful fluorinated chemicals in the bloodstreams and tissues of animals in the area.

Health concerns related to PFAS chemicals are not exclusive to Satellite Beach. Members of the organization Fight for Zero have collected health data that indicates disease hotspots along the Banana River and Indian River Lagoon, where AFFF, a firefighting foam containing high levels of PFAS chemicals, was used by the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 

The pollution goes beyond Patrick Air Force Base and other parts of Florida's space coast. Stel Bailey, a cancer advocate and executive director, emphasizes that the deterioration of water quality in the Indian River Lagoon results from pollution and industrial activities. Bailey also highlights that records dating back to the 1970s indicate the presence of contamination, plumes, and studies demonstrating tumors and diseases in wildlife.

Bailey asserts that the pollution issue extends beyond Satellite Beach. She emphasizes that globally, the Department of Defense is recognized as the foremost contributor to pollution, and in a concentrated vicinity, three operational military bases and numerous aerospace companies exist. Bailey expresses her dissatisfaction with the Department of Defense's disregard for the welfare of service members, who were subjected to detrimental substances like PFAS for many years despite awareness of its adverse impact on the environment and health. 

Jeff Dubitsky, a Satellite Beach resident and Vice President of Fight for Zero, believes it is unnecessary to rely on a Florida Department of Health definition to take action against abnormal situations. To minimize harmful exposures, Dubitsky and cancer survivors living in the vicinity call for inclusive and autonomous environmental testing, blood testing, improved healthcare accessibility, and additional data for their community. 

According to Oncologist Greenwalt, the Florida Department of Health study did not consider other types of cancers or data from the military healthcare system. Despite adhering to strict criteria, the study could not overlook the notably elevated cancer rates in two zip codes within Brevard County.

Detecting potential cancer clusters is essential, but it can present difficulties due to insufficient data. The existing data does not offer a comprehensive overview as it is solely categorized by zip code and is only current until 2015. According to DP Williman, a tech consultant from DP GeoTech, there is room for improvement in the 21st century. To address this issue, he is collaborating with Fight for Zero to map disease clusters in Florida through crowdsourcing.

Cancer Has No Municipal Boundaries

In the 1990s, several adolescents living in the South Patrick Shores neighborhood were diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma Cancer, which received substantial media attention in the newspapers. The presence of around 30 toxic waste sites at Patrick Air Force Base and the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station led to soil and groundwater contamination.

Richard Clapp, who analyzed more than 1,000 instances of cancer, stated that the cluster observed in South Patrick Shores was one of the most notable in U.S. medical history. The Florida Department of Health concluded that the elevated number of cases, 17 times greater than the national average, was attributable to a "viral infection."

Out of the 40 individuals diagnosed with cancer, only two have managed to survive up to the present day. There are apprehensions that government entities at the state level might have attempted to hide or diminish the importance of this group of cases.

Fight for Zero has been investigating concealed waste underneath residences in the South Patrick Shores locality since June 2018. The organization proposes that the area be acknowledged as a Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) and undergo a comprehensive examination. Specialists associated with the organization have expressed apprehension regarding potential infiltration of vapors into the houses, attributable to the Navy's use of the region as a landfill since the 1940s."

No Safety Level Set

The Brevard Cancer Assessment report states that the impact was considered "minimal." Representatives from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) did not have a meeting to explain their findings or why the data analysts didn't include diseases like breast cancer linked to PFAS chemical exposure. The government has also not explained how they determined groundwater was "safe" when the Environmental Protection Agency or state has no enforceable safety limits set.

As scientific knowledge progresses, it will become evident that PFAS chemicals are significantly more dangerous than previously believed.

Fight for Zero is requesting residents to provide their health information. The organization intends to use this data to demonstrate the effects to government agencies and Congress in Washington, DC, during the current month.

First cancer cluster concern meeting with Oncologist Greenwalt and Stel Bailey at the Kiwi Tennis Club in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida 

Documents & Sources:
  • Cancer Cluster in America:
  • Brevard County Cancer Cluster Assessment:
  • Department of Defense 2018 PFAS Report:
  • Blood and Tissues of Wildlife:
  • 30 Toxic Waste Dumps:

Stel Bailey

Stel Bailey, a cancer cluster survivor and environmental health advocate, is a researcher and journalist with more than two decades of multimedia experience, having been published globally.

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