Kevin's Life as a Result of Nyanza

Suzanne K. Condon, MSM, the associate commissioner and director of the Bureau of Environmental Health at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, called Kevin an "Environmental Health Hero" for his persistence and courage in seeking the truth surrounding the cluster of rare cancers diagnosed in Ashland and their link to the Nyanza Chemical plant.

By Dan Borelli - Kevin's Advocacy


“The road I am walking will surely be here for years to come, and for many others to walk. Some will face this journey with ease, still others will struggle. Many will be victorious standing triumphant, hands raised to the sun, yet others will be less fortunate. This illness has no barriers; sex, race, or financial blind-folds, any, and all can be effected. Those who have been chosen, are now soldiers in a war that now rages. A war that takes all of one’s wit, character, courage and every ounce of spirit. Mine started on September 11, 1997. Almost a year ago. Dare I say, it has felt like an eternity.
— Kevin Kane

Special in-depth report on Nyana Superfund Site


Upon the founding of the EPA Superfund program in 1982, Nyanza was named one of the first ten Superfund sites. From 1988-1991 the EPA performed soil and water remediation and capped and fenced off the site. However, Kevin Kane and many other Ashland residents were diagnosed with various forms of cancer based sickness post remediation. Their legacy lives on, as does the cleanup and monitoring of the site. 


Kevin Kane's Impact Potentially Saved Tens of Thousands

Kevin Kane contacted Suzanne Condon, Associate Commissioner and Director of the Bureau of Environmental Health at the MA DEP in 1997 to strongly urge the DEP to study the link between the rare cancers being diagnosed in Ashland residence (including his own diagnosis of angiosarcoma, and the chemicals dumped into the environment on the Nyanza Chemical Plant site. At Kevin's insistence Suzanne agreed to reopen another study culminating in Ashland Nyanza Health Study, results were published in 2006.

 Suzanne Condon wrote, "It is hard to accurately estimate the numbers of people who have benefited by Kevin's courageous acts. If we think about the number of people who were deemed at greatest risk of exposure, those who as children had some contact with the NYANZA site during 1965 and 1985, the number would have been 2,500. If you add only parents alone that number triples to 7,500. More realistically, if you add siblings and the children that these children might have given birth to, that number is surely to reach the tens of thousands mark." Due to this far reaching civic action, Suzanne labeled Kevin Kane an "environmental health hero."

Kevin knew immediately that his proximity to the Nyanza Chemical Plant was directly linked to his cancer.

What he did not know, and what came as a shock to the community and his family, was that Kevin would lose his life that year, as a result of what is now known as one of the nation's worst hazardous waste sites. 

As red, yellow, purple and blue dyes were being manufactured at the 35-acre site of the former Nyanza dye manufacturing company, mercury, chromium, lead and cadmium were being released into unlined streams. 

Kevin, and many other Ashland adults and children, unknowingly played in, and around, what has been called Ashland's "purple puddles."  The residents noted, they were able to determine the day of the week by looking at the color of the water in ponds. The Nyanza Chemical plant manufacturers and dumped different colors on different days.  Residents were unaware of the dangerous and lethal chemicals being released into their community in the form of those coloring dyes. 

Kevin spent the last year of his life dedicated to the truth. "He was willing to ask the difficult questions when many did not want them asked," John  B. Moore, a staff writer at Middlesex News wrote. 

September 5, 1998 At Kevin's funeral, his brother Tim and his nephew Jeromy grieve the loss of Kevin as thousands came to say goodbye and share in the Kane family loss.

September 5, 1998 At Kevin's funeral, his brother Tim and his nephew Jeromy grieve the loss of Kevin as thousands came to say goodbye and share in the Kane family loss.


August 31st, 1998 at 2:00 p.m. Marie and Bernie Kane, and their remaining 8 children's lives changed forever when Kevin Kane lost his battle with cancer, a fight he expressed in his own words as a speaker for the Relay For Life earlier that spring:

Epitaph from Kevin Kane's gravesite marker

Epitaph from Kevin Kane's gravesite marker


Kevin will always be the light in the darkness to his parents and siblings.  "Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move out of our souls to dance. They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same." Marie Kane shared.


Kevin’s contact with our office was key to alerting us of a change in cancer patterns well in advance of the Ashland diagnosis being officially reported to the state.  The world needs more people like Kevin Kane who press for answers to difficult questions, notably for the greater good.

-Suzanne Condon

Sandra George O'Neill wrote this poem in memory of Kevin.

Sandra George O'Neill wrote this poem in memory of Kevin.