Cancer Cases at Schools to Be Studied


The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday ordered county health officials to investigate cancer cases among teachers and staff at two schools located near landfills.

According to a motion passed Tuesday, the county’s Department of Health Services must look into reports of seemingly high cancer rates, also known as a “cancer cluster,” among employees at Towne Avenue School in Carson and Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley. The schools are located near landfills, and residents in those areas question whether toxic substances from the sites might be linked to the apparently higher cancer incidence.

According to a spokesman for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the county’s health services department has known about the cancer concerns since Sept. 23 but failed to inform the Board of Supervisors.

“These issues are not being taken seriously enough by people in the bureaucracy,” Yaroslavsky said. “We don’t have an excuse; we owe it to the public to either verify if their suspicions are correct or confirm [there is no problem] and put the people’s mind at ease”.

The motion, drafted by Yaroslavsky and Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, instructs the health department to conduct public meetings led by medical and public health staff to answer questions, provide screening for those constituents at risk and establish an 800 number for people’s concerns.


Mark Finucane, director of the county’s Department of Health Services, stated in a prior memo that he would “ensure that all agencies worked together to expeditiously address all identified public issues.”

But there is concern that the department does not have the resources to meet some of these goals. Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the health department’s Public Health Program and Services, told the supervisors that the department has “a limited ability to conduct tests based on our current staffing.”