President Joe Biden has suggested that contamination from Delaware, including “oil slicks,” may have been responsible for the cancer experienced by him and “so many” others.
While delivering a speech on climate change in Somerset, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, Biden said air pollution during his childhood was so rampant that people needed to wipe oil off car windshields in order to drive. The president suggested that pollution was to blame for the skin cancer he would later experience, saying that Delaware used to have the “highest cancer rate in the nation.”
Biden said he had been told by a former Massachusetts official how past contamination had meant “people used to take out a rag and wipe the grime off their car windshield just so they could drive” before his speech. He compared the anecdote to his own experience in Claymont, Delaware, where he moved after his family left Scranton, Pennsylvania, when he was 10 years old.
The president explained that Claymont was downwind of a city with “more oil refineries than Houston, Texas,” before recalling that his mother would sometimes clean an “oil slick” of contamination from the windshield of the car before taking it to school in the morning. He said that pollution was the reason he and others had experienced cancer.
“Guess what, the first frost, do you know what was going on?” Biden said. “You would have to put on your windshield wipers to literally remove the oil stain from the window. This is why I, and so many other people I grew up with, have cancer. And so for a long time, Delaware had the highest cancer rate in the nation.”
Although it is not clear whether an oil stain on the outside of a car windshield would play a direct role, studies have shown that air pollution can increase the risk of developing skin cancer. However, skin cancer is thought to be more commonly caused by overexposure to the sun.
Biden was diagnosed with multiple “localized nonmelanoma skin cancers” that were surgically removed before he became president, according to a November 2021 report from his doctor. The report suggested that the cancer may have been caused by Biden spending “a lot of time in the sun in his youth.”
Melanoma has the highest mortality rate of all skin cancers, although it only accounts for 1 percent of all cases. Common types of nonmelanoma skin cancers include squamous cell carcinoma, which is generally considered highly curable, and basal cell carcinoma, which also has a relatively high survival rate.
The cancer rate in Delaware has dropped significantly in recent years, with the highest rate now seen in Kentucky, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited by World Population Review. South Dakota has the lowest cancer rate in the country.
news week has reached out to the White House for comment.