Rare Kidney Cancer Afflicting Young Children in Marine City, Michigan

A rare form of kidney cancer known as Wilm’s tumor has been found in five children in the last four years in the small town of Marine City, Michigan. The most recent victim is a six-month old girl who was diagnosed with the disease in March. The cancer, also called nephroblastoma, is the most common form of kidney cancer in children, but is relatively rare overall. Only four or five children in one million develop this disease.

The apparent cluster of this form of cancer has alarmed Michigan state authorities. The diagnoses could be coincidence, or there could be genetic or environmental factors involved. Although no conclusions are being drawn at this time, it is hard to ignore the fact that Marine City is down the St. Clair River from the industrial city of Sarnia, Ontario.

So-called “Toxic Torts” have grabbed the public’s attention in recent years. Real-life scenarios have formed the basis for popular books and movies such as A Civil Action, among others. The BP oil spill (and the smaller, but still damaging spill in Michigan), the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan, and other environmental disasters remind us of the hidden human cost of industry.

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