Pediatric cancer in Loire-Atlantique: families conduct their research

Cancer pédiatrique en Loire-Atlantique : les familles mènent leurs recherches

In just 4 years, 17 cases of childhood cancer have been identified by the ARS in the Sainte-Pazanne sector in Loire-Atlantique, and in the surrounding municipalities. But in the absence of a “common cause”, Public Health France has not continued epidemiological research. Indignant, the parents decided to conduct their own investigation.

[Mis à jour le 8 janvier 2020 à 10h30]. Since 2015, 17 children on the territory of the Pays de Retz in Loire-Atlantique (Sainte-Pazanne, St Mars de Coutais, Ste Hilaire de Chaléons and Rouans) have a pediatric cancer. Four died. This number of cancers is twice as high as in the rest of France. Among these children and adolescents – girls and boys – aged 3 to 19, 6 have acute leukemia. Recall of facts.

  • April 2017: first report of 6 cases of pediatric cancers, including 4 acute leukemias, to the Regional Health Agency (ARS) Pays de la Loire by the parents of affected children. After several months of investigations, the ARS confirms the existence ofa “cluster” of cancers. The works have “concluded to a excess of leukemia cases over 2 years among children under 15, compared to the data observed in previous years on this same sector “, specifies the Agency. However, “analysis of environmental risk factors did not show a predominant cause “. Indeed, this small town located in rural area, does not present establishments or industries associated with risks of major accidents.
  • February 25, 2019, 3 new cases of pediatric cancers, including 2 acute leukemias, are added to the 6 cases already established in the municipality.
  • April 1, 2019, 3 new cases of cancer have been reported by parents living in the small town of Loire-Atlantique.

ARS Pays de la Loire alerts the prefecture of Loire-Atlantique and contacts the National Agency Public health France to conduct an epidemiological study to identify a possible source of common local exposure to these reported childhood cancers. Faced with the urgency of the situation, several parents from Sainte-Pazanne, all equally worried, formed a group called “Stop our children’s cancer“Their goal? To obtain the holding of a public meeting as quickly as possible in order to inform all the doctors of the sector of the existence of these cancers and especially, to continue the investigations.”The researchers must come and study everything: air, water, what we eat …“, insists, during a press conference at the town hall of Sainte-Pazanne on April 1, 2019, Marie Thibaud, mother of Alban, a little boy suffering from leukemia. “We obviously wonder about what we eat, endocrine disruptors, household cleaning products. We need a scientific study to know if there are factors here that would explain these cancers “, worries another mother, whose son, victim of cancer, has died.

A school near a former industrial site is analyzed until the end of January 2020

  • May 21, 2019 : the first monitoring committee begins in Nantes. The scope and stages of the epidemiological investigation have been defined in order to learn more about the cause of this excess of cases in the sector. The monitoring committee is supposed to meet every month until the start of the school year, the date fixed by Santé publique France to deliver the first conclusions of the epidemiological study.
  • June 26, 2019, Professor Jacques Dubin, oncologist, maxillofacial surgeon and ENT specialist, is appointed as chairman of the monitoring committee.
  • Thursday August 29, 2019, the Loire-Atlantique Regional Health Agency draws up a list of possible causes of cancer in the Sainte-Pazanne area for parents of children who are victims of cancer. One of the tracks mentioned by the ARS is detecting concentrations of radon, a radioactive gas of natural origin, in part of the Notre-Dame de Lourdes school, a school near a former industrial site and where 4 children with cancer are educated. “There are also overhead high voltage lines and an underground high voltage line that runs under the schoolyard as well as an old wood processing plant nearby. But it would apparently emit no more pollution to date“, emphasizes Johann Pailloux, spokesperson for the collective” Stop childhood cancer “. “School alone cannot be the cause of children’s illnesses. We know that it does not depend on a particular factor but on a multiplicity of factors that can be called a ‘cocktail effect ‘. Scientists, they rather use the name of exposome, that is to say the set of factors that cause an organism to change“, he adds.
  • Between November 2019 and January 2020, analyzes take place at the homes of the 17 families concerned and new measures are carried out within the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes school. These analyzes relate in particular to the levels of radon, electromagnetic fields, gamma, metallic traces as well as the quality of air and drinking water. “If the accent is put on the home, it is because, in the scientific literature, we have seen that it is first of all at the home that we must protect ourselves insist the health authorities. Especially since “Science has not given us the tools to find the common source for these pediatric cancers.” The results of these analyzes will be announced in February 2020.

“There is no risk common to seventeen sick children”

  • Monday, November 18, 2019, a fifth monitoring committee is organized at the headquarters of the Nantes regional health agency. At the end of this committee, Public health France confirmed“a number of pediatric cancers above average in the seven municipalities between 2015 and 2019”, but precise “that there is no risk common to seventeen sick children”. The national public health agency therefore decides not to continue the investigations and advocates “real-time monitoring with the Nantes University Hospital“. If other cases appear, the families concerned will receive a questionnaire, making it possible to describe the environment and the lifestyle of children with cancer and to look for over-exposure to one or more risk factors.

The parents decided to act for themselves.

  • In January 2020, the parents of children affected by these pediatric cancers remain unanswered and demand the reopening of investigations, suspended after finding “the presence of a spatio-temporal grouping without common cause identified“. Worried and skeptical about the methodology of Public Health France, they therefore decided to act by themselves by creating the collective”Stop our children’s cancer“(created in February 2019 in Sainte-Pazanne) and by launching a kitty online to fund an independent investigation to conduct new analyzes “in all transparency and autonomy”. To date, several tens of thousands of euros have been collected. Thanks to this money, a laboratory was mandated to analyze the hair (including the presence of pesticides, endocrine disruptors) of twenty children of the municipality, as well as to carry out environmental analyzes (water, soil, air, electromagnetic fields, radons …). “The authorities recognize that there are more childhood cancers here than elsewhere… and yet the conclusion is that we stop everything? It’s not right. Today there is suspicion of a political will not to look further“, indignant Marie Thibaud, founder of the collective and mother of Alban, suffering from leukemia.
  • The next monitoring committee will take place on March 3, 2020.

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