Cancer Cluster

Houston Childhood Cancer Cluster

Creosote Contamination in Houston’s 5th Ward Blamed for Childhood Cancer Cluster.

In 2019, the Texas Department of State Health confirmed a cancer cluster in the northeast Houston area known as the 5th Ward. They verified what residents had known for years; higher rates of lung, esophagus, and throat cancer among adults in the area.

A new report released this January shows children in the 5th Ward are being sickened with Leukemia at nearly five times the expected rate.

What is Causing the Cancer?

Creosote is a cancer-causing chemical once used to treat wooden rail ties at an old railroad facility, now owned by Union Pacific. The chemical seeped into the ground and created a plume that spread out in the area around the 5th Ward.  As a result, people can come in contact with the contaminated earth through groundwater or microscopic dust in the air.

Next Steps

Advocates are working to force Union Pacific to relocate the residents and create a buffer between the contaminated earth and at-risk homes. The hope is that the EPA will name the area as a Super Fund site, so Federal resources can be used to remediate the area entirely.

More on Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

ALL is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It is a type of cancer that develops and worsens very quickly, so prompt diagnosis is essential. Early warning signs are:

  • being very tired, weak, or pale
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • infections (like bronchitis or tonsillitis) that keep coming back
  • a regular fever
  • night sweats
  • bruising or petechiae (tiny red spots on the skin caused by easy bleeding)
  • bone and joint pain
  • belly pain (because cancerous blood cells build up in organs like the kidneys, liver, and spleen)

For more information on childhood ALL, its diagnosis, and treatment visit

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