ELKINS, Ark. (KFTA) — The Arkansas Department of Health is looking into concerns of a possible cancer cluster among Elkins teens.
A spokesperson for the ADH says it hasn’t received enough information at this point to be able to have case numbers.
Dr. Appathurai Balamurugan, the state Chronic Disease Director, says his team is following protocol to address these concerns.
“It’s a 4-step process. Step one is essentially gathering information, which is where we are at. Working with the concerned citizen or complainant in gathering information about the individual impacted or affected by cancer or chronic disease,” Balamurugan said. “It does pose a challenge when communities are small, but we have a station consultant at the College of Public Health at UAMS who consults with us on such small estimates.”
The Elkins School District has around 1,200 students, including 387 that go to the high school.
Superintendent Jeremy Mangrum says he believes five students have reported some type of cancer over the last several years.
He released this statement:
“We are always concerned about the health and safety of our students, but we have absolutely no reason to believe there is any correlation between the district and any student illness…The District has awareness that some students have varying illnesses. We are not aware of any District-based issue. Our District has wonderful facilities that are fully compliant with all federal, state, and local laws, including some facilities that are brand new and state of the art. We regret anytime a student contracts an illness or disease, but those are individual and private issues best left to families. We understand that the Department of Health is reviewing the illnesses as a result of the recent stories in the media, and we have full confidence that its review will result in no action being taken relative to the the Elkins School District.”
Bryceton Bowen grew up in the small, tight-knit town of Elkins, and says several of his former classmates are now battling cancer.
“I always thought it was strange,” Bowen said. “It’s just weird how all four kids go to the same high school, three of them all in the senior class got the same type of brain cancer in the span of two years.”
Bowen says after witnessing his former classmates fighting to survive cancer, he’s hoping the ADH can get to the bottom of the cause.
“I think it’s really necessary.”