Addressing Disease Clusters, Like Libby

On January 26, 2011, Senators Boxer (D-CA) and Crapo (R-ID) introduced S. 76, Strengthening Protections for Children and Communities From Disease Clusters Act (“Trevor’s Law”).  The legislation strengthens public health agencies’ ability to address suspected disease clusters.  The bill has not yet been introduced in the House.

Forty-two disease clusters have been in 13U.S.states, showing incidence of numerous types of cancer, birth defects and other chronic illnesses.  Only one of the 42 clusters – inLibby,Montana- showed a specific source for chemical contamination: asbestos.  Libby was identified as a cluster due to the high occurrence of malignant and respiratory diseases, including mesothelioma.  The study looked at clusters that have occurred since 1976 when Congress passed the Toxic Substance Control Act, which was meant to regulate the use of toxic chemicals in industrial, commercial and consumer products.  The study concluded that the “state-level capacity to address (disease clusters) was inconsistent and disjointed.”

When a community is concerned that they are experiencing an unexpected increase in the incidence of birth defects, cancer or other diseases, people become concerned and want help in getting answers to their questions.  This legislation aims to improve response to suspected disease clusters by:

• Strengthening federal agency coordination and accountability when investigating these potential certain “clusters” of disease;
• Increasing assistance to areas impacted by potential disease clusters; and
• Authorizing federal agencies to form partnerships with states and academic institutions to investigate and help address disease clusters.

This bill will create safer and healthier communities across the nation, by identifying communities at risk and halting emerging disease clusters.

Resources:

Strengthening Protections for Children and Communities From Disease Clusters Act

Click here to view the bill

Adequacy of State Capacity to Address Noncommunicable Disease Clusters in the Era of Environmental Public Health Tracking

Click here to view the journal article

Health Alert: Disease Clusters Spotlight the Need to Protect People from Toxic Chemicals

Click here to read the report

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