The question remains unresolved. For the moment, it is impossible to determine with precision the elements that can cause the cases of pediatric cancers identified in the sector of Sainte-Pazanne, about thirty kilometers south-west of Nantes. Since 2015, seventeen cases of cancer in children, adolescents and young adults have been reported to the Regional Health Agency (ARS) Pays de la Loire. Three people have died since.
Meeting Thursday, August 29 for the third time since its establishment in May, the committee monitoring the case – including the ARS, the Public Health Agency France, the group of parents Stop cancer of our children, the prefecture, Health professionals and the Regional Directorate for the Environment, Planning and Housing (DREAL) – however promised to take stock of the potential causes of illness common to children.
Four of the young people with cancer attended or continue to attend the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes school, the Sainte-Pazanne private school, located in front of a former industrial site. Investigations were conducted during the summer to "Lift the doubt" about this environmental exposure.
Radon and traces of formaldehyde in the school
Four days before the start of the school year, it was necessary to make sure that the school Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes could welcome the children under conditions of satisfactory safety. This is the case, says Nicolas Durand, Deputy Director General of ARS Pays de la Loire: "More than one hundred and fifty samples and measurements were made on water, air, soil, radon (a radioactive natural gas), electromagnetic fields (…). There are no risks that exceed the reference values. "
Mr. Durand agreed that "Significant concentrations of radon » have been measured in some parts of the school, but these early measurements are only indicative since they were done over a three-week period in summer in closed classes, whereas they should normally be done for two months in winter. A new control campaign by the LRA will take place later in the year. Traces of formaldehyde and lindane, an insecticide classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization, were also detected in the facility.
The investigations conducted by the DREAL do not allow, for the moment, to affirm that any pollution would come from the former industrial site, a wood factory, located near the school. In the coming weeks, housing where sick children live will be checked.
A public meeting at the end of October
In the meantime, the ARS recommends that the school " take immediate simple and systematic action Ventilation, and to make a complete diagnosis of the ventilation system. "All the investments that will have to be made, we will do them", guarantees Frédéric Delemazure, diocesan director of Catholic education of Loire-Atlantique, in charge of the management of the school.
The ARS undertakes to quickly transmit all of the raw data collected this summer and to answer the monitoring committee's questions on Thursday 5 September. She also promises to return these first results to staff at the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes school. A public meeting, with all the inhabitants of Sainte-Pazanne and the surrounding area, is announced at the end of October, "In order to make a point of progress on our investigations, both the raising of doubts and the epidemiological investigation", says Nicolas Durand.
The epidemiological study, conducted by Public Health France, constitutes the second component of the investigations. A questionnaire of about fifty pages was sent to the families of sick children to identify common causes of illness. The questions relate to the mother's pregnancy period, the children's environment, their lifestyle, their place of schooling …
"A cocktail effect"
" We have so far met eleven of the fourteen families (The ARS takes into account the seventeen cases identified but Public Health France excludes the three cases of young adults) " says Lisa King, Head of Public Health France Pays de la Loire.
The family group believes that research does not go far enough. "We did not talk much about long-term things, about what a child can do in a school, all day, in the middle of a yard with four power lines around, a little radon"protests Johann Pailloux, a member of the collective Stop the cancer of our children. "I am deeply convinced that there is a cocktail effect, an accumulation of risk factors", Marie Thibaud, founder of the collective.
Marie Thibaud regrets that many of the questions proposed to Public Health France (on cosmetic products used by the mother during pregnancy, endocrine disruptors, bisphenol …) were not included in the epidemiological survey. "We did not integrate all of the questions because some of the questions, in our view, had a research objective and we are rather in the context of cluster investigations. (more than normal occurrence of cancers in a given population) " justify Mme King.
Without waiting for the public meeting announced by the health authorities, some families plan to have the data submitted by the ARS appraised by scientists or companies that voluntarily support the group. Because the anxiety remains. «My child enters Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes school on Mondaysighs Johann Pailloux. I'm no more reassured than that. "