Residents of a small farming town in Iowa fear they are being poisoned because ‘obituary pages in newspapers are full of cancer deaths’

Maureen Reeves Horsley, a native of a small Iowan farming district, says she can rarely look at local obituaries without seeing someone who has died of cancer.

In Palo Alto County, dozens of residents are being diagnosed with and dying of cancer as their state becomes one of the few states to reverse progress against the disease.

And while Ms. Horsley remembers a time when the area’s crops were plentiful, the lakes were crystal clear and people drank water straight from their farms, residents now wonder if the land they used to live on was slowly poisoning them.

Palo Alto County is home to about 8,800 people and 840 farms, and its cancer rates are nearly 50 percent higher than the nation’s average.

Ms. Horsley, a former nurse, said she is one of many Iowans who speculate that the farm families they depend on for food and income were actually the source of their illnesses because of toxic pollutants and chemicals used in the agricultural industry .

Chris Green’s husband, Jim Green, died in 2019 from brain cancer glioblastoma after working at an Iowan aluminum plant for 40 years

Linus Solberg, a rancher and supervisor in Palo Alto County, said his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and his mother, wife and three of his neighbors died from various forms of the disease.

Linus Solberg, a rancher and supervisor in Palo Alto County, said his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and his mother, wife and three of his neighbors died from various forms of the disease.

She said: ‘As a nurse practitioner I am aware of five people with pancreatic cancer.

‘I know twenty people here who have other forms of cancer or have died from cancer. View the obituaries in our newspaper. Everyone is aware that this is happening.”

She added in an interview with The New Lede, she and her family drank the water on their farm and her sister was later diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27 and another was diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Unlike most U.S. states, Iowa is among a handful of states where cancer rates have increased over the past five years.

It ranks second for the highest rate of diagnoses: about 480 per 100,000 people, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Palo Alto County has the highest cancer rates of any county in Iowa and the second highest of any county in the United States. about 660 per 100,000 people, according to a U.S. News report found it.

This is higher than the national average of 442 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

It is predicted that approximately 21,000 Iowans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2024, which is the second-highest diagnosis rate in the country when considering population.

About 6,100 people are expected to die.

The state has the fastest growing number of new cancers and the second highest cancer rate in the country for the second year in a row.

There are fears that two problems are behind the state’s cancer spike: polluted water, soil and air from chemicals used in the state’s booming agricultural industry and Iowa’s growing alcohol problem.

Mrs. Horsley said, “We are so involved with agriculture in Iowa. Major chemical use. Major food applications. What effect does that have on people? More research needs to be done on this.

‘In the past, farmers lived longer if they did not die from an accident on the farm. Now everyone is checked and discovered they have prostate cancer, or glioblastoma, or cancer in the lymph nodes. We need to find out what’s going on.’

In Davenport, Iowa, about 300 miles southeast of Mrs. Horsley, David Dunn and his wife, Sharon Kendall-Dunn, have long worried about the health effects they may experience from farming.

The Dunns told the Lede that a decade ago a mass was discovered in David’s abdomen and he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer previously linked to pesticides and nitrates from farms.

Even though the couple doesn’t work or live on a farm, David’s doctor still said their environment could be a factor: “You live in Iowa,” the couple told the doctor.

And two years ago, Sharon was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a form of bone marrow cancer.

Both Dunns grew up in Iowa and know friends and family who have also been diagnosed with cancer, including some who have died from the disease.

In the eastern Iowan farming town of Long Grove, 65-year-old Jim Green died in 2019 from the brain cancer glioblastoma.

Prior to his death, his wife Chris Green told the Lede that he had worked for 39 years in an aluminum factory, where he was likely exposed to cancer-causing chemicals.

And Chris said she knows nine other people in her town who have died from the same brain cancer in recent years.

Linus Solberg also knows several people who have fallen victim to cancer.

The farmer and Palo Alto County supervisor told the Lede that his father developed prostate cancer, his mother died of ovarian cancer and his wife and three of his neighbors died of various forms of the disease.

He said, “So that’s six in two miles along this road. I don’t know if it’s pesticide or electrical. We have all these windmills. I don’t know if it’s in the water. I have no idea.’

1718130199 984 Residents of a small farming town in Iowa fear they

1718130201 178 Residents of a small farming town in Iowa fear they

Each year, the Iowa Cancer Registry and the University of Iowa release a report on how the state's cancer rates compare to the rest of the country.

Each year, the Iowa Cancer Registry and the University of Iowa release a report on how the state’s cancer rates compare to the rest of the country.

Dr. Nathan Goodyear, the medical director of an integrated cancer center in Arizona, previously told that both alcohol and pesticides are two major contributors to an “inhospitable environment” that can increase cancer risk.

Iowa agriculture accounts for $17.3 billion of the state’s $247 billion gross domestic product — about seven percent. It is the third grossest industry in the state.

Palo Alto County’s farms generate about $800 million annually for Iowa, accounting for about two percent of the state’s agricultural sales. It has approximately 361,000 hectares of agricultural land.

The two most important crops in the state are corn and soybeans, which require large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers.

In Palo Alto County, the largest agricultural products are pigs, grains and beans.

The state uses 237 million pounds of herbicides and 11.6 billion pounds of fertilizer per year – more than any other state. The level of fertilizer use annually accounts for 28 percent of that of the entire country.

And Iowa’s livestock and poultry industries produce more waste per year than any other state: 109 billion pounds.

Both pesticides and nitrates – a byproduct of fertilizers, manure and oxygen – from animal waste are routinely discharged from farms into water sources. Exposure to these has been linked to an increased risk of cancers of the brain, breast, bladder, liver, bile ducts and ovaries, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.



Dr. Goodyear told that pesticides and chemicals in agriculture disrupt hormones, increase inflammation, alter the body’s immune system and reduce oxygen levels in cells and tissues.

Officials now also point to a unique ecological cause for the increase: a radioactive gas seeping from the Earth thanks to geological changes that occurred during the last ice age.

Thousands of years ago, Iowa and other parts of the Midwest were covered by a giant glacier that began to erode the bedrock. Today, it has become so worn in specific areas that radon can leak into the soil and enter people’s homes.

Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas released from weathered rock, is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. according to to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services warned that radon can seep through small holes for wiring, pipes or cracks in a building’s foundation, where it accumulates unnoticed.

And when someone inhales large amounts of gas, it damages the lining of the lungs, which can lead to cancer. The EPA estimates that about 70 percent of Iowa homes are at risk of radon exposure.

Determined to get answers to his state’s mysterious cancer epidemic, Mr. Solberg has asked local health authorities to do more research. While he knows Iowa universities have looked into the problem, he said not enough is being done to limit the risks.

In an effort to ramp up their efforts, Iowa health officials said they are expanding cancer screening programs for breast, lung, prostate and colon cancers.

They also advise residents about smoking and healthy eating and test the drinking water supply and test houses for radon.