The Times News, © 2006

September 14, 2006

To the Editor:

We recently became aware of a mailed brochure from four government agencies in regard to some of the problems that we are experiencing in this area with toxic exposures and chemicals. The four government agencies are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH). The brochure is entitled “Seven Facts You Should Know about the McAdoo Associates Superfund Site.”

After reading the brochure, we must conclude that the information presented is, at best, incomplete and misleading. For example, the brochure states “Only a single sample of untreated surface water from the [Still Creek] reservoir in 2004 detected an elevated level of lead (76 parts per billion, or ppb).” The brochure fails to mention that a sediment sample taken at the same time revealed 93.5 parts per million (ppm) of lead and 200 ppm of methyl ethyl ketone. 93.5 ppm of lead is more than 1000 times the concentration of lead found in the water. Other samples showed 67.7 and 63.1 ppm of lead in the sediment. The brochure also fails to mention the recent findings of elevated levels of iron, manganese and zinc in the water. There is more but we need not get into too much detail at this time. We have reported most of the relevant data that we have compiled to the ATSDR.

Furthermore, the information about polycythemia vera, a rare blood cancer, is just as incomplete and misleading. The brochure states “Unfortunately, we don’t know what causes polycythemia vera. No one has yet been able to establish any links between this disease and exposure to any particular chemical or chemicals.” However, a report from the Mayo Clinic states “No strong evidence supports disease association with environmental exposure, although an excess risk has been suggested in embalmers and funeral directors, as well as in persons exposed to benzene, petroleum refineries, and low doses of radiation.” A. Tefferi, Polycythemia Vera: A Comprehensive Review and Clinical Recommendations, Mayo Clinic Proceedings 78: 174-194, 2003.

Finally, a reporter, Sue Sturgis, from North Carolina has reviewed the PA DOH’s data of reported cases of polycythemia vera by county for the years 2001 through 2003 and suggests a possible association between polycythemia vera and power plants that burn waste coal (www.hometownhazards.com). It is amazing to us that a reporter from North Carolina has done more investigating into the basis of our problems than the combined efforts of four government agencies.

We would respectfully submit that the EPA, ATSDR, PA DEP and PA DOH have spent more money publishing and mailing this brochure than the agencies have spent investigating the problems that we are experiencing with toxic exposures and chemicals. We need less propaganda and more research.

Dante J. Picciano, Ph.D.
Army for a Clean Environment
Tamaqua, PA