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State health report finds alarming rate of cancer diagnosis among children in 5th ward

Dianna Cormier Jackson has lived in the Kashmere Gardens area for over 60 years.

Jackson said she’s lost family members and neighbors to several types of cancer in that time.

“My mom, my uncle, two of my brothers, one of them worked for Southern Pacific, but they just brushed it off, my ex-husband died, my mother in law, a whole bunch of my neighbors,” Jackson said.

Jackson said Creosote has been an issue in the area since she can remember.

“When I was coming up as a kid the creosote was there. You could smell it,” Jackson said.

Creosote is a cancer-causing chemical that was once used to treat wooden rail ties at an old railroad facility, now owned by Union Pacific.

The chemical seeped into the ground, creating a plume that has spread, according to state officials.

In 2020, a state health and human services report found higher rates of lung, esophagus and throat cancer among adults in the area.

Now, a new report released earlier in January shows children sickened with Leukemia at nearly five times the expected rate.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is calling on Union Pacific and state agencies to get involved and care for these families.

Turner released the following written statement:

“The finding of another cancer cluster in the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens area highlights the significant adverse health impacts that have plagued areas of our city for decades. Even more distressing, this cluster involves children sickened with leukemia at nearly five times the expected rate.

“Late last year, the city’s first-ever cancer cluster was identified in the same area with greater-than-expected incidences of adult cancers of the lung, esophagus, and throat. Both cancer clusters are near legacy creosote contamination at a facility now owned by Union Pacific.

“Without the grassroots efforts of the community and the relentless support of the Houston Health Department, this cancer analysis may have never been conducted, and the community may have continued to suffer in silence.

“It is our responsibility to protect the interests of the families and children living in the immediate area. All Houstonians have the right to a safe and healthy environment no matter where they live.

The City of Houston will aggressively explore all possible avenues to bring meaningful relief to this suffering community.

“I am requesting that Union Pacific help to relocate affected residents and create a buffer between contaminated areas and homes in the neighborhood. The EPA and TCEQ must declare the area a Super Fund site. Someone needs to be held accountable for the healthcare costs of these families and specifically these children. "

Read the full Texas Health and Human Services report: