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Families of children sickened in Ohio cancer cluster drop lawsuit against Whirlpool

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TOLEDO, Ohio — Families whose children have been among dozens sickened in a northern Ohio cancer cluster have dropped their federal lawsuit linking the illnesses to Whirlpool Corp.'s washing machine factory.

The families asked this past week to drop the suit although the owners of contaminated land once owned by Whirlpool plan to continue with their part of the case, said Chuck Boyk, an attorney who represents the families.

It's possible that the lawsuit could be filed again within a year, Boyk said. "As much as I'd like to explain the reason behind it, it's not in my clients' best interest to explain that," he said.

The lawsuit filed by the families in 2013 said that a suspected cancer-causing chemical came from Whirlpool's factory in Clyde, near where 35 children have been diagnosed with cancer and three have died since the mid-1990s.

Benton Harbor, Michigan-based Whirlpool has maintained from the beginning that the allegations weren't based on scientific or medical fact. The company said it was pleased that the families had dropped their lawsuit.

"We empathize with community members — our neighbors, friends, and co-workers — who have suffered illnesses or deaths of their loved ones. Whirlpool has been a part of the fabric of the Clyde community for more than 60 years, and we continue our commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen," said a statement from Whirlpool.

Nearly 40 young people in a rural area between Toledo and Cleveland have been diagnosed with various types of cancer since the mid-1990s. The diagnoses peaked in 2006, when nine children were told they had cancer.

The families said when the suit was filed that they believed smokestacks from Whirlpool's huge washing machine plant sent a chemical compound suspected of causing cancer into the neighborhoods of several children who were among the first diagnosed.

Ohio health and environmental investigators have spent years testing the air and water around Clyde and talking with the children and their families about where they live and work and what they might have been exposed to. But they've never come up with the answer.

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