- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A new state health study shows elevated cancer rates in an area surrounding a much-maligned medical waste incinerator, but epidemiologists say they are probably not directly linked to the facility.

The Utah Department of Health study examined 35 years of cancer data in Bountiful, Centerville, North Salt Lake, West Bountiful and Woods Cross.

Rates of breast and prostate cancer were higher than the state average for 12 years, which is statistically significant. Six other cancers were elevated for shorter periods that aren’t statistically significant.

State epidemiologists say none of those cancers is linked to air, water or soil.

Gov. Gary Herbert called for the study amid growing concerns about the Stericycle facility. Residents and anti-pollution activists have launched a campaign against the facility, saying it routinely releases toxic smoke that puts public health at risk.

The study results are far from definitive. The health department is waiting on results from soil samples taken near the plant checking for levels of dioxin and heavy metals. The state is also reviewing adverse births in south Davis County.

Illinois-based Stericycle wants to move the plant from a North Salt Lake neighborhood in Davis County to a remote site in Tooele County.

The incinerator receives medical waste from around the western United States, processing about 7,000 tons a year, according to the Division of Air Quality.

The medical waste ranges from pharmaceuticals and laboratory tools made of plastic and glass to human tissue and fluids and animal tissues and carcasses.