DHHS: Data justifies further investigation into elevated kidney, renal cancer cases in Merrimack

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Residents gathered at SNHU in 2016 to hear more about the PFOA contamination in Merrimack and Manchester as related to operations at Saint Gobain Plastics. File Photo/Carol Robidoux

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services on Friday released newly analyzed data on cancer rates in Merrimack. The analysis of data from the New Hampshire State Cancer Registry found a higher than expected number of people with kidney and renal cancers in Merrimack between 2009 and 2018 than would typically be observed in a town of similar size in New Hampshire.

There is not sufficient information available at this time to draw any conclusions about the individuals who have kidney and renal cancer in Merrimack and any specific exposure. According to the American Cancer Society, an excess number of cases of a particular cancer that looks significant based on statistics does not necessarily mean that the cancers are caused by something unique to that area.

The analysis provides an update to the DHHS Report on Cancer in Merrimack that was published in 2018 in response to community concerns about cancer following detection of PFOA in the Merrimack Village District Public Water System. DHHS is releasing this analysis during a meeting today of the Commission on the Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Perfluorinated Chemicals, a legislative commission formed in 2019 to study PFAS contamination in the town of Merrimack, and surrounding communities.

The data released today is one step in what will be a multi-step process with the residents of Merrimack and the NH Department of Environmental Services to better understand cancers in their community. The next steps include gathering additional information from members of the community and subject matter experts and convening a meeting with Merrimack. Meeting details will be announced in the coming weeks.

“While this preliminary data does not necessarily indicate the presence of a cancer cluster, any data that points to the possibility of increased illness in our communities warrants closer examination,” said Division of Public Health Director Patricia Tilley. “We will be seeking input from individuals affected by these cancers, community leaders and members of the Commission on the Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Perfluorinated Chemicals as we continue with our investigation. We are committed to working with the residents of Merrimack and other local and state agencies and officials as we learn more.”

DHHS will follow the Cancer Cluster Investigation Protocol to guide the response to community concerns related to cancer. The DHHS protocol is consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, please visit https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdpc/nhcccp.htm.

Contact the Cancer Concern Review Team with specific questions or concerns by email at DHHSCCRT@dhhs.nh.gov or by phone at (603) 271-4959.

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NH Department of Health and Human Services