Delaware health officials are about to launch a testing program to track the health effects of pollution near a Sussex County power plant.

The study will test the air as well as blood, urine and hair samples of 32 volunteers who live within a five-mile radius of the Indian River power plant.

Meg Maley, a registered nurse and volunteer with the Delaware Cancer Consortium, said the goal is to find out to what extent volatile organic compounds and metals in the air are present in the body.

"You being exposed to something in the air is one thing," Maley said. "What shows up and stays in the body thereafter is another."

Jill Rogers of the Delaware Division of Public Health said they will look for cancer-causing toxins to determine if, and how much, pollution from the power plant and other sources may be affecting public health. It is a small pilot program, but Rogers said they hope to expand it statewide.

"We hope over time to broaden it out and to begin sampling and studying the entire state of Delaware so we can provide similar information throughout Delaware to all the communities," Rogers said.

A 2007 report found rates of lung cancer in the Indian River area significantly higher than in the rest of Sussex County.

The report noted a lack of localized air-quality data as one reason it was impossible to pinpoint a cause of the cancer cluster.