Editor’s Note — This article is part of our new Undergraduate Research Series. You can read more about it here.
By Rachel Eckley, Kara Criner, Stacey Reichardt and Hayley Whittaker
Epidemiological studies have provided preliminary data illustrating elevated cancer rates in the vicinity of a paper production facility. The paper production process involves a release of excess chemicals, typically into nearby waterways. Georgetown, SC is a site for International Paper where documentation of cancer is exceptionally high. Citizens of Georgetown filed a lawsuit against International Paper in 2009 to prevent the dumping of chemicals into the local Sampit River. Known chemicals being released by International Paper are acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. The EPA has classified these chemicals as human carcinogens; however, the claims were dismissed due to lack of scientific proof determining which chemical affected the citizens’ health.
This research was conducted to support the hypothesis that pulp and paper mill effluents cause cancer. Data were analyzed from multiple articles studying cancer incidence and mortality around paper facilities throughout the world. Interviews, court cases, and EPA data files were also examined to further support the hypothesis. While some analyzed data supported the hypothesis, others needed further research; however, there is enough evidence to conclude that International Paper is disposing carcinogenic chemicals into the Sampit River.
This research allows for the conclusion that the chemicals released are hazardous to humans. The chemicals need to be further analyzed to determine which chemicals are increasing cancer in the vicinity of a mill. Additional research will provide communities such as Georgetown, SC with the proper data to prevent local paper production facilities from disposing of harmful chemicals in the future.
Read the full paper here: Mill Effluents Potentially Increase Cancer.
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