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Pet Deaths Fuel Cancer Cluster Suspicions Among Humans in The Acreage

A series of cancer deaths among pets has bolstered suspicions that environmental contamination in The Acreage may be causing a human “cancer cluster” as well. According to an Oct. 18 article in the Palm Beach Post, the rate and types of cancer diagnosed in some pets in the community make some residents suspect their pets’ use of well water to drink and bathe may have caused their tumors. The theory follows suspicions among residents of The Acreage that radioactivity in the well water the community uses has created its higher-than-average rate of cancer in human residents, attracting the attention of environmentalists and West Palm Beach premises liability attorneys.

According to the article, the Ceraulo family of The Acreage has seen its two German shepherds die of a type of cancer called hemangiosarcoma in the past four years. The disease is common among German shepherds, but not among cats, which is why the family was surprised when their cat, Sylvester, was also diagnosed in September of this year. Other residents of The Acreage report tumors and cancer-like diseases in their pets, but still others say they’ve had pets for years on the land without trouble. A veterinary oncologist told the newspaper that pets may be bellwethers for conditions that affect humans because they have shorter lives and are closer to the ground.

Because nobody keeps records on cancer in pets, it’s not clear whether there’s an unusually high incidence of cancer at The Acreage. But if there were, it would add fuel to a controversy ignited by an unusually high rate of cancer among human beings in The Acreage. An investigation by the state found that 10% of the water in randomly selected wells had levels of radiation that exceeded state standards, and a private study confirmed those results. Some residents believe the radiation is an aftereffect from the neighboring plant for jet and rocket developer Pratt & Whitney, a defense contractor with a history of toxic spills that nearly made it a Superfund site. A recent town hall meeting on the subject in West Palm Beach attracted Erin Brockovich, a consultant and environmental activist who became famous after a movie about her work on a similar “toxic tort” case in California.

As a Boca Raton premises liability lawyer, I’m glad this issue is getting the attention it deserves. Cancer is a devastating disease. If toxic exposure turns out to be the cause of the cancers in this community, residents deserve to know about it as soon as possible. Under the law, the source of pollution or other toxic exposure is responsible for any harm to human beings that results. (It would also be responsible for harm to their property — which, under the law, includes pets.) It’s too soon to say, but in this case, that source could well be Pratt & Whitney. If so, the company would be legally liable for all of the injuries the radiation caused, including the cancers themselves as well as related costs like medical treatment and the cost of moving to a community without the contamination.

Cohn, Smith & Cohn is proud to represent people who developed serious illnesses because of exposure to toxic chemicals by an irresponsible industrial or corporate neighbor. “Toxic torts” are legally and medically complex, requiring attorneys to prove not only the connection between the toxic exposure and the illness, but all of the medical and financial losses patients have suffered as a result. Typically, victims must estimate and claim expenses for a lifetime of medical costs, as well as any income they may lose if health concerns impair their ability to work and any other costs the exposure caused. Our Plantation premises liability attorneys have more than three decades of experience, giving us the background and expertise to handle these claims, whether they come in an individual lawsuit or a class action.

If you believe you or a loved one fell ill because of exposure to radiation, chemicals or other toxins and you’d like to explore your legal options, you should call Cohn, Smith & Cohn as soon as possible. To set up a free, confidential evaluation of your case, please contact us online or call (954) 431-8100 today.

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