HONOLULU, HI — Three children were diagnosed with rare forms of bone cancer in a span of six years.
They had one thing in common: Their fathers all work, or worked, at Station 12 in Waipahu, which is in an industrial area.
In the latest case, a young girl was diagnosed with cancer in just the past few weeks. Ally Tamayose is undergoing treatment for osteosarcoma.
The Honolulu Fire Department released a statement Monday that said:
“The Honolulu Fire Department (HFD) is extremely concerned about the recent cases of cancer in children of fire fighters at the Waipahu Fire Station.
The HFD Medical Director immediately conducted preliminary research into these specific cases and consulted with field experts.
Through a request by the Department of Health, the University of Hawaii Cancer Center is looking at any links between fire fighter duties and family members who contract cancer.
The health and well-being of fire fighters and their families are of the utmost importance to the HFD. These families are in our thoughts and have the support of our entire department.”
According to Bobby Lee, president of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, they didn’t make a connection until now.
“We didn’t look at this as being a pattern after the first and even the second child that contracted cancer,” Lee said. “But just recently, when we found out a third contracted cancer, and more so, the same rare cancer as the second child, Kala, now it really raised a lot of red flags for us. We’re concerned, because it seems to be some kind of pattern.”
The state Department of Health, which is working with the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, told us Monday it appears to be a coincidence.
In a statement, the health department said:
“DOH working with the UH Cancer Center determined the diagnoses of osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma in the three children of firefighters from the same company within six years appears to be coincidental. There are an average of 4 cases of osteosarcoma and 1 case of Ewing’s sarcoma diagnosed each year in Hawaii and approximately half of these individuals are under 20 years of age. There has not been an increase in the number of cases of osteosarcoma or Ewing’s sarcoma in recent years in Hawaii. Osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma are two different, unrelated diseases and there are no confirmed environmental causes. There is also no evidence that an environmental exposure in a parent can result in increased risk of these cancers in their children. It is generally not recommended that healthy children be screened for these rare cancers and unnecessary exposure to radiation through imaging procedures can be unsafe for children.
Lee says nothing has been done to verify that claim.
“It’s hard to just sit here and listen to them say it’s coincidental when there was no research or no investigation done on the station. No type of audit on the station or the area surrounding the station, which happens to be an industrial area,” he said.
Lee says something needs to be done. “We are concerned, at this point in time, of the environment as far as the station and the surrounding area,” he said. “I know our firefighters are very concerned and are cautious about bringing their kids around the station at this point in time.”
A Honolulu Fire Department spokesperson says Fire Chief Manuel Neves is personally concerned and formulating a plan to look into this issue further with help from the industry experts.
He said the safety and welfare of personnel and their families are of the utmost importance.
Health officials added Tuesday: “The Department of Health will be reaching out directly to the fire station and concerned fire fighters to offer our assistance and expertise. We understand the UH Cancer Center has already reached out directly to the affected families and offered their assistance.”