2007.06.20 – State agencies fail to protect health

http://www.republicanherald.com/articles/2007/06/20/import/18496563.txt

State agencies fail to protect health

To the Editor: An article in The REPUBLICAN & Herald reported that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the federal Department of Health and Human Resources, is completing a study on the incidence of polycythemia vera in Carbon, Luzerne and Schuylkill counties.

Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2007 3:00 AM EDT
To the Editor:

An article in The REPUBLICAN & Herald reported that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the federal Department of Health and Human Resources, is completing a study on the incidence of polycythemia vera in Carbon, Luzerne and Schuylkill counties.

Polycythemia vera is a rare bone marrow cancer. The article indicated that the three-county region being investigated might be expected to see five cases of polycythemia vera per year, or 25 cases over five years, instead of the 97 cases actually reported from 2001-2005.

These results indicate at least two things to me:

First, the Pennsylvania Department of Health failed twice to detect an almost quadrupling of the incidence of polycythemia vera in this area. It issued reports on Sept. 20, 2004, and Jan. 18, 2006. The later report stated only that the incidence of polycythemia vera was significantly elevated in Luzerne County, but rates for the individual ZIP codes were not significantly higher, indicating that no single area was at greater risk. We had to get the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in here to confirm the obvious.

The Department of Health attributed any increases in the incidences of cancer that did appear in its two studies to lifestyle, specifically smoking and diet. It was partially correct. The increases can be attributed to lifestyle, but in these studies, the lifestyle relates to living in an area contaminated with imported hazardous wastes and to being exposed to a toxic chemical soup.

Second, another newspaper article reported that a state representative said the state was responsive to community concerns. Any state representative who believes that the Pennsylvania Department of Health or the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has been responsive to community concerns is not doing a very good job representing the people in his district.

The government should be responsive to the needs of its citizens. It should not be acting to protect industry.

Remember, it is the Pennsylvania Legislature that created these state agencies and controls their purse strings. The Legislature allows these agencies to function the way that they do.

It is time for us to hold the feet of our elected officials to the fire and demand a complete investigation into past and present dumping of contaminated, hazardous and toxic wastes in the three-county region and into the resulting adverse health effects.

Dante Picciano

Tamaqua

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