Craig Prosser of West Salem is on a mission to save lives after he almost lost his 16-year old son last year to Osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer.
"Fear, utter shock. You expect it to happen to us or your grandparents but not to your kid," Prosser said.
He also didn't expect other families in his neighborhood to be going through the same thing.
Within a two-square-mile radius of his home, there were four other confirmed cases of Osteosarcoma, with two more reported, Prosser said.
All the cases involved children and young adults between the ages of 6 to 21.
Three died as a result of the cancer.
"When you have this many kids in such a close proximity with a rare form of bone cancer in a short period of time, it has to be something involved in the environment or something connected in one way or another," Prosser said.
Last December, Prosser and hundreds of others signed a petition demanding answers.
They wanted to know if there is a connection between the cancer and where they live.
The Environmental Protection Agency, state and local agencies have now launched what they call a preliminary assessment.
"We may never know what caused these children to be ill or what causes illnesses of other types in this community. What we're really focused on is preventing any illnesses in the future that are preventable," Anthony Barber of EPA said.
They're targeting four sites:
Walker Middle School, West Salem High School, Orchard Heights Park and a ball field at 7th and Patterson.
The plan is to review how those sites were used and look at the environmental history to find out if there are any contaminants.
Prosser said it's a good first step, and though his son survived, he hopes no one else will have to go through what they did.
"I'm proud of the kid. He's battled for nine-and-a-half months, where people could give up easily but he didn't. He's a fighter," Prosser said.
The EPA said once they finish the preliminary assessment, they'll decide if any additional studies or sampling at the sites will take place.
They said the process is very time consuming and could take about six months.
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