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Testing starts at ex-park near Ohio cancer cluster

FREMONT, Ohio (AP) — Whirlpool Corp. began soil and water testing Monday at a former park in a northern Ohio area where cancer has sickened dozens of children for more than a decade.

The Benton Harbor, Mich.-based appliance manufacturer has a washing machine factory in the town of Clyde and once owned the nearby park where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said initial soil samples found high levels of a chemical believed to increase the risk of certain cancers.

Whirlpool has said it will pay for more than 300 test samples, Toledo's WTOL-TV reported.

A recent federal civil lawsuit by cancer cluster families alleges Whirlpool's plant spread a suspected cancer-causing compound into nearby neighborhoods.

In a Monday interview in Fremont, Whirlpool's vice president of communications told WTOL that allegations that the company contributed to the children's illnesses and deaths aren't supported by available data.

"There's no scientific evidence whatsoever to substantiate that," Jeff Noel said.

The families believe smokestacks from Whirlpool's factory sent a compound called benzaldehyde into neighborhoods where several of the children lived and were among the first diagnosed. Their lawsuit also accuses the company of dumping potentially cancer-causing waste at the now-closed park outside of the city just south of Lake Erie.

The families' attorneys say Whirlpool's factory uses benzaldehyde as a solvent in painting and porcelain coating.

Noel said benzaldehyde isn't used in Whirlpool's core manufacturing processes, and the company is looking into whether the compound is a byproduct in its processes.

The case is likely to take years to wind through the courts if it goes to trial.