June 17, 2024
Dozens who grew up in same neighborhood diagnosed with brain tumors
Nick Squires, of Hanson, with a map of cancer patients in his old neighborhood of West Hanover on Aug. 19, 2019. Squires grew up next to the former fireworks and munitions manufacturing plant and says the incidence of brain cancer among neighborhood residents is high.
Nick Squires, of Hanson, with a map of cancer patients in his old neighborhood of West Hanover on Aug. 19, 2019. Squires grew up next to the former fireworks and munitions manufacturing plant and says the incidence of brain cancer among neighborhood residents is high.

Growing up in West Hanover, Nick Squires and his friends thought little of the countless hours they spent playing in the woods and ponds of a 240-acre property where a fireworks manufacturer and other companies are now known to have dumped toxic chemicals for decades.

It wasn’t until years later that Squires says he realized that spending so much time living alongside land once considered a sure-fire candidate for a federal Superfund site may have made him and others sick.

After being diagnosed in 2015 with oligodendroglioma, a rare brain tumor, Squires told The Patriot Ledger he noticed that an alarming number of other young adults who grew up in his neighborhood were fighting, and dying from, brain tumors.

Through social media alone, Squires said he has found at least 35 people who were diagnosed with brain tumors and lived for an extended time within about 2 or 3 miles of the National Fireworks Co. site, where crews are now working to unearth unexploded ordnance buried decades ago. Many of these cases involve people diagnosed as young adults who lived near Factory or Forge ponds or the Drinkwater River.

The number of new cases of brain and other nervous system cancers among the general population is about 6.4 per 100,000 people each year, according to the National Cancer Institute, and a 2005 report estimated about 2,014 people lived within a 1-mile radius of the site based on data from the late 1990s. Squires said based on that data, there should be maybe one person diagnosed with a brain tumor in the area around the fireworks site, not dozens.

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