By Al Pefley (WFLX)
Royal Palm Beach, FL
New and startling information in the investigation into a alleged cancer cluster in Palm Beach County. As we have reported recently, nearly 40 families in a three-mile radius have been affected by brain tumors.
Now a local funeral director says he noticed an unusual number of cancer deaths back in the late 1990's in the western communities.
And at the time he tried to get one of our elected leaders to do something about it.
Julian Almeida, a licensed funeral director and vice-president of Palms West Funeral Home in Royal Palm Beach, says that a decade ago, he knew something was wrong.
He noticed that a large number of people who live in the western communities such as the Acreage were dying of cancer. But when he brought his concerns up with a local politician, those concerns apparently fell on deaf ears.
"I'm disappointed 'cause I brought it up and took the effort to point it out and nothing was done," Almeida said. He says he tried to get Tony Masilotti, who was at the time the mayor of Royal Palm Beach, to do something.
Because Almeida, in his job at Palms West Funeral Home, noticed something wasn't right. Too many people, young people under the age of 50 who lived in western communities such as the Acreage, Royal Palm Beach and Wellington, were dying of cancer. It was a trend that he felt needed closer scrutiny. Before joining Palms West, he had worked at a different funeral home in West Palm Beach, closer to the coast, and he says most cancer deaths in the eastern part of the county involved the elderly. To see so many younger people dying of cancer in the western area got his attention.
So he brought it up with Masillotti in 1997 or 1998.
"Basically what we discussed in the casual conversation was there's a high number of young people dying of cancer in the western communities compared to the east side of town," Almeida said.
He says Masilotti never took any action, as far as he knows.
"He said he would look into it, but nothing else was ever done," Almeida said.
Almeida says he was so concerned about the cancer issue, that he discussed it with Masilotti again a few years later when Masilotti was a Palm Beach County Commissioner.
Again, he says they had a casual conversation, but Almeida did not make a formal request in writing for an investigation. Masilotti, to his knowledge, never took any action.
Masilotti later resigned from the county commission due to corruption charges. Almeida says some action should've been taken when he first mentioned it to Masilotti in the late 1990's.
"It should've been checked 11 years ago. Maybe it would've saved some people from getting cancer, Almeida said.
Tony Masilotti is now serving a federal prison sentence.