White describes his daughter Kristen Renee as beautiful, vibrant, and "never sick a day in her life" — until the 72-hour period, at age 28, when she suffered a seizure, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and given eight months to live. The married mother of two died in April 2008.

Soon after, White says, his other daughter, Angie, "began getting these very abnormal growths."

When doctors said the cause was likely environmental, he hired a microbiologist and chemist from the University of South Florida to begin testing well water and ground samples around Fort Detrick.

"Every one of them came back extremely hot," White says. "When I say 'hot,' I mean full of TCE, PCE, dioxin."

White called a town hall meeting in Frederick in July 2010 and found an audience: Dozens of base neighbors who shared his concerns.

Frederick County Health Officer Barbara Brookmyer agreed to convene a panel with representatives from the Army, the state health and environment departments and the federal EPA to listen to the community's questions.

Officials began the cancer cluster investigation, organized a committee of residents contributing ideas and research of their own, and have scheduled regular meetings to keep the community abreast of their findings.

Brookmyer says the system is working as it should: "with the community driving it."

Mitchell says the state's cancer investigation will continue.

He and others caution it can be extremely difficult to prove that chemical exposure decades ago led to cancers today. "These things kind of remain a mystery," said Thomas Burke, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health.

White's daughter Angie has recovered from the growths in her abdomen. But his ex-wife — his daughters' mother — died with renal cell carcinoma in November 2010. And his mother was diagnosed with melanoma last month.

White has spent the last year and a half traveling between Florida and Maryland to press his case. He says now he's planning to return to Frederick full time.

"I think I need to actually have a presence there 24/7 and really, really make this thing happen," he says. "Give it full exposure.

"So I'm looking at homes now. But not around Fort Detrick."




Cancer rates near Fort Detrick

Cancer rates in three Census tracts around Fort Detrick were equal to or slightly lower than expected rates for most cancers based on Frederick County as a whole.
Cancer typeObserved*Expected**
Female breast159161
Brain/central nervous system1117
Kidney/ blatter7976
* Number of cases in Frederick County census tracts 750501, 750700 and 751200

** Expected number of cases based on Frederick County rates, 2000-2007

SOURCE: Maryland Infectious Disease and Environmental Health Administration

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