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Officials: Tannery sludge not behind brain tumors

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP)--Health and environmental officials have concluded that sludge from a St. Joseph, Mo., tannery did not contain enough of a cancer-causing chemical to cause health problems in areas where the sludge was used to fertilize farmland.

Though hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen, it has not been associated with brain tumors such as several that have turned up in northwest Missouri, said Scott Clardy, an administrator with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

"The sludge did not cause brain tumors,'' Clardy said July 1 at a news conference at the federal Environmental Protection Agency office in Kansas City, Kan.

Hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, was detected in five of eight soil samples collected since April in three counties where the sludge was applied, but not at levels that posed a danger to human health, Clardy said.

Levels ranged from 20 to 49 parts per million, far below the 86 parts per million "screening level'' that would warrant closer investigation, he said.

Efforts began last summer to identify the cause of a rash of brain tumors diagnosed in the Cameron, Mo., area in recent years. A lawsuit was filed in April on behalf of two area residents against Prime Tanning Co., which had been giving away sludge to farmers in four northwest Missouri counties since 1983.



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