Cancer mortality in U.S. Counties with hazardous waste sites and ground water pollution

Jack Griffith, Robert C. Duncan, Alvin C. Pellom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Since the late 1950s, more than 750 million tons of toxic chemical wastes have been discarded in an estimated 30 000 to 50 000 hazardous waste sites (HWSs). Uncontrolled discarding of chemical wastes creates the potential for risks to human health. Utilizing the National Priorities Listing (NPL) of hazardous waste sites developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this study identified 593 waste sites in 339 U.S. counties in 49 states with analytical evidence of contamined ground drinking water providing a sole source water supply. For each identified county, age-adjusted, site-specific cancer mortality rates for 13 major sites for the decade 1970-1979, for white males and females, were extracted from U.S. Cancer Mortalitya nd Trends 1950-1979. Also, HWS and non-HWS counties that showed excess numbers of deaths were enumerated for each cancer selected. Significant associations (p < .002) between excess deaths and all HWS counties were shown for cancers of the lung, bladder, esophagus, stomach, large intestine, and rectum for white males; and for cancers of the lung, breast, bladder, stomach, large intestine, and rectum for white females when compared to all non-HWS counties. There were no consistent geographical patterns that suggested a broad distribution of gastrointestinal cancers, associated with HWSs throughout the United States, although we did identify a cluster of excess gastrointestinal cancers in counties within states located in EPA Region 3 (Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia). Whereas it is clear that more definite studies are needed to assess the magnitude of any adverse health effects associated with waste sites and polluted ground drinking water, it appears that HWS locations may be used as an initial index of possible exposure to toxic chemicals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-74
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Environmental Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Cancer mortality in U.S. Counties with hazardous waste sites and ground water pollution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this