Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cancer & Environmental Hazards in My Hometown

A few months ago, all four of us kids happened to be back at my parents' house in Seekonk, MA (a difficult thing to coordinate!). Over the dinner table, we started talking about how many people in our town had gotten cancer. It seemed like A LOT. As we threw out names, it struck us that a lot of them lived in the North End, many in particular neighborhoods. We started to wonder whether they got sick because of where they lived. Could there be something in the town's water supply, or some environmental hazard in particular neighborhoods? Were there any patterns?

Now I had a bug in my ear about it. I started looking into public databases to see what I could find. It turns out there's a lot of information out there -- reports of oil spills, other contaminants, leaking underground storage tanks, etc. I entered the info into a Google mash-up called Map Builder and voila - a visual representation of the various environmental hazards in Seekonk and some of the neighboring communities.

The next step would be to compare this map against a map of where people who have gotten cancer live, grew up, or work. I haven't done this yet. I'm concerned about people's privacy, and haven't figured out yet how to put that information into a map without violating their privacy. Also, I obviously don't know everyone in town, and I don't want my map to falsely represent the incidence and occurrence of cancer.

Click here to see the map:
MyMaps at MapBuilder.net

Any comments, suggestions, or information are encouraged and welcomed.

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