Polycythemia vera is not a disease most people have heard of, unless of course, you live in Northeast Pennsylvania.
There, the rare bone marrow cancer is unusually common, as a federal study released yesterday confirmed, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
But the study wasn't able to quantify just how unique a cancer cluster it is, and it wasn't able to link the cancers to any common environmental cause, despite the presence in one county of a huge Superfund site -- an old mine filled with 7,000 drums of toxic chemicals.
Those with the disease are scattered across the region and do not share a common drinking water source, leaving investigators without any obvious common point of exposure. It isn't clear from the Inquirer story if they considered vapor intrusion -- a relatively new concern among environmental scientists that refers to toxic vapors from polluted groundwater rising up and accumulating inside homes.
The people in this part of Pennsylvania are dealing with an excruciating and unusually pervasive disease that has -- so far -- defied explanation.
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