S a knight was a huge passion in Oliver Strong's young life. Until his death from acute myeloid leukemia in June 2015, at the age of 12, he was an excellent athlete and goalkeeper, a healthy, vibrant and popular boy with a thirst for life who inspired his teammates, friends and family.
So when Oliver died suddenly at a children's hospital in Miami, just 36 hours after doctors first diagnosed the disease, his parents Simon and Wilma began looking for answers. What they found was disturbing.
Child cancer cases in the United States have risen by almost 50% from 1
Yet, what really heightens Oliver's parents' concern is the growing concern that the role of carcinogenic environmental toxicants, including industrial waste and pollutants, is thought to play in the rise of childhood cancer .
"It's almost an unspoken scientific consensus that it's always environmentally friendly," said Simon Strong, who with his wife created the Oliver Forever Silen, a foundation in their son's memory. an ambitious study with scientists at Texas Children's Hospital, home of the nation's largest children's cancer center and Baylor Medical College.  Simon Strong and Wilma Tarazona Strong lost their 12-year-old son Oliver to childhood cancer four years ago. Oliver's parents kept his room intact at their home in Miami Beach, Florida, June 27, 2019. "src =" https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/5fa277a3f696a35e20fedde6d9b15e4184ed08bc/0_0_5616/5614/3744/6. jpg? width = 300 & quality = 85 & auto = format & fit = max & s = 898d2322b7c3bba799b860283b244ce7 "/>
Through the thereasonswhy.us website, the survey will use social media to help gather information from a wide geographical spread. Families with their own childhood cancer experiences will register and receive a questionnaire in the coming months, looking for information, including the onset and progression of their cancer, and demographics.
Dr. Michael Scherer, Director of Pediatric Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention Program at Texas Children's Hospital, says: "[This research] … will allow families who may not live near any of the existing centers for training, to participate as they see fit.
"We realize that people will not know if they have been exposed to a particular chemical or specific agent, so we try to get an overview of their environment, where they lived during the time the baby was conceived, during pregnancy. to the mother, in early childhood, up to the time they developed their cancer, are these residences located near Superfund sites or in areas with high levels of air pollution or water pollutants?
"Ultimately, if we see that several types of cancer have some risk factors, this is important information, but we want to start with a very homogeneous group of cancers and start looking at those patients first.
Strong says that the hope is ultimately to build a more detailed picture of the link between toxins and childhood cancer.
"I, like most people, thought it was just bad luck and perverted genes, and you find that we are calmly encouraged to think about it," he said. "[But] I found a book published by World Health organization … it is always triggered by external agents that damage our DNA and the body's ability to deal with these damage. "
In the case of his own son, Silen acknowledges secondhand the events of the months and weeks leading up to until the death of Oliver, who came after a week of headaches.
Strong says no he remembers if it was some factor in his son's death, but that he regrets using Roundup in his patio to get rid of weeds. "Oliver Edward's brother said they both hate the smell of these things. [On one occasion] I looked at the container and I saw glyphosate and looked up and saw that it had been declared a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
"And now we all know about the verdicts of the jury on glyphosis [three juries in the US have awarded damages linking the weed killer to cancer; Bayer its manufacturer insists it is safe and is appealing].
Silen said that someone also told him about artificial turf and the "role it can play in apparently high childhood cancer rates."
He said, "Look at the grass and the black spongy things that are in it. It's mostly the cubes, used tires for vehicles, it's petrochemical stuff. There are strict rules for throwing out full tires for vehicles, but nothing about lifting them and using them as a sponge surface for athletes to play.
"So I would expose Oliver to Roundup, he" played for six months as a goalkeeper for these things. I have no idea if any of them contributed, but he was exposed to these two things and if I knew better, I would not expose him. "
On a larger scale, the Strong began to look at the cases and clusters of childhood cancer on a national scale and the possible environmental factors behind them that led to the foundation of theasonswhy.us project.
"The International Agency for Research on Cancer Liver Cancer studies the carcinogens in our environment, but in our health care industry the focus is only on detection, diagnosis and treatment because that's where the money is … and it doesn't focus on prevention." he says.