Contamination in Our Communities: A Case Study of Woburn, Massachusetts


This case study focuses on a childhood cancer cluster in Woburn, Massachusetts, a town 13 miles northwest of Boston. Between 1969 and 1986, twenty-one Woburn children were diagnosed with leukemia, and twelve died. Anne Anderson, the mother of one of these children, was the first to notice that too many children in her neighborhood were being diagnosed with leukemia. Since then, hazardous chemicals dumped by local industry, which subsequently contaminated the drinking water supply, have been linked with the excess incidences of cancer.

Throughout this case study, we will use Woburn as an example to illustrate how to find environmental and health data, and explain how rates of disease can be calculated to help answer the question: 'Is this community experiencing unusual health problems?'

Learning Objectives:

After completing this case study the student will be able to: