Cancer fears in Oinofyta

A new scientific study has revealed that the rate of cancer-related deaths among residents of the heavily industrialized Oinofyta area, north of Attica, where water has repeatedly tested positive for carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, is significantly higher than among residents in the broader prefecture of Viotia. According to the study, commissioned by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) and carried out by experts from Athens University, 118 deaths – a quarter of the 474 deaths registered in Oinofyta in the period between 1999 and 2009 – were caused by cancer. This rate of cancer fatalities is 14 percent higher than that in other parts of Viotia, the prefecture of which Oinofyta forms a part, the study showed. Closer analysis reveals a relatively high incidence of fatalities from rare forms of cancer. For example, the number of deaths from cancer of the liver in Oinofyta during the 1999-2009 period was 1,472 percent higher than deaths from the same form of cancer in the rest of Viotia. Deaths from cancer of the urinal tract were 841 percent higher than similar fatalities elsewhere in Viotia. Similar discrepancies were highlighted between cases of mouth and lip cancer in Oinofyta and the broader Viotia prefecture. Asked whether these forms of cancer, and the relatively high rate of fatalities in Oinofyta, could be linked to industrial pollution in the area, the authors of the report suggested that they could be but that no concrete conclusion can yet be drawn. «These forms of rare cancer are often a result of environmental pollution… so it would be logical to say that they are the result of the longstanding presence of hexavalent chromium in the water of Oinofyta. But further scientific investigation is required as it is possible that there are other contributing factors [to the fatalities],» said Athena Linou, a professor of epidemiology who led the study. Linou proposed the immediate inspection of all sources of drinking water supply in Oinofyta. «I know authorities have already taken some steps in this direction. But tests should be conducted regularly and the samples should be taken from tap water in homes and not just from the refinery,» she said.