Proposed ban on chemical linked to Woburn leukemia cluster research chronicled in ‘A Civil Action’

chemicalsA recent article in the Boston Globe announced the EPA’s proposal for a full ban on chemical linked to Woburn leukemia cluster. Trichloroethylene, also known as TCE, has been tied to birth defects, reproductive problems, and to 21 cases of childhood leukemia diagnosed in Woburn from 1969 to 1986.

The childhood cancer cases and subsequent litigation were chronicled in the movie (and book) ‘A Civil Action’ which also dramatizes the efforts of then-chair of the Biostatistics Department—Marvin Zelen, and Stephen Lagakos— who investigated the link between the contaminated water and the children with leukemia.  The ban on TCE represents a long awaited coda for the Woburn families who suffered health complications, and highlights the ongoing importance of chemical safety as a focus for public health. For more on the study, see this article from Harvard Public Health: Fall 2013, Centennial issue.