ROCKY FLATS -- People who lived downwind of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant while it was in operation are experiencing a higher rate of rare cancers and illnesses.
That's according to preliminary findings released today at a town hall meeting in Arvada.
For years community members around the plant were in the dark about what was being produced and the potential health dangers involved.
“My mother thought for years that they were making scrubbing bubbles. They were not making scrubbing bubbles,” said Kristen Iversen, a University Professor and Author who grew up in the area.
It was in fact Plutonium, among other chemicals being processed at the plant which was in operation from the early 1950’s until 1989.
“I started noticing a lot of people in the neighborhood were sick. Many of them and they were rare cancers or rare diseases,” said Shaunessy McNeely, who’s parents lived less than a mile from the facility.
Now, its people like McNeely, who are participating in a health survey that is studding illnesses possibly related to the site.
“When my dad was sick he said, you need to find out if this is related to Rocky Flats because I don’t want people living next to it and being exposed to this without knowing,” McNeely said.
In 2015 McNeely’s dad died from a heart tumor that quickly spread to his bones.
She says his type of cancer is so rare, only a handful of people in the United States get it everyday.
But at the same time her dad was diagnosed she says, “We found out a little boy in the same neighborhood had the same cancer which statistically just doesn’t happen,” said McNeely.
It’s stories like this that prompted the Metropolitan State University in Denver and Rocky Flats Downwinders health study.
“Its a small sample and its a biased sample because people who are ill are more likely to take it,” said Carol Jensen, the registered nurse and MSU professor in charge of the survey.
According to Jensen, preliminary findings from the more than 1700 people who’ve completed the survey show a much higher rate of thyroid cancer which can be caused by radiation.
“It is enough of an usual pattern to warrant further study,” she said.
It’s also finding an unusually high number of rare cancers like that of McNeely’s father.
“Its too early to really draw a lot of conclusions from a public health standpoint. But they make me emotional because those numbers are real people and when I think about that it breaks my heart,” McNeely said.
No one at the town hall meeting on Friday wants there to be a correlation between health issues and the Rocky Flats Plant. They say they just want the truth.
“We need evidence so that's why were are here today is to ask more people to fill out the health survey. We need sick people, we need healthy people, we need everybody here to actually make it a true study, a random study so we know if there is actually a danger,” McNeely said.