2007.09.26 – RELEASE OF POLYCYTHEMIA VERA FINDINGS ON HOLD

The following newspaper article appeared in the Pottsville Republican-Herald on September 26, 2007.

Release of polycythemia vera findings on hold
State Department of Health wants opportunity to examine data.

By Shawn A. Hessinger

Saturday was supposed to be PV Day, as in polycythemia vera.

However, a tentative public meeting to release findings from at least 72 reported cases of a rare blood disease in Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne counties by the federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, a sister agency to the Center for Disease Control, has been delayed.

“Bottom line the release will not be until some time in October,” Vince Seaman, a toxicologist with the federal agency, said on Monday.

The disease causes an increase in the production of red blood cells and a cause has not yet been determined.

A tentative meeting planned for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Best Western Genetti Inn & Suites, Hazleton, will not be held.

State officials said Tuesday release of data by the federal agency would be “premature” until the Pennsylvania Department of Health was given the opportunity to examine the data.

“The department just wanted an opportunity to adequately review the information,” spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman said.

Concern over the disease arose in June 2004 when a Carbon County environmental group reported that three people and possibly a fourth had contracted the disease locally.

The cases were reported along Ben Titus Road, Rush Township, rekindling concern about the environmental and health impacts of a nearby controversial Superfund site.

Although declassified in 2001 from the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list of the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or hazardous waste sites, the former McAdoo Associates site, just off Route 309 south of McAdoo, still concerns local residents.

Before its closure by federal officials in 1979 for a variety of environmental issues, the site, a little more than a mile north of Be n Titus Road, operated as an industrial recycler, extracting metals from waste sludge.

However, between 1981 and 1982, federal authorities removed 6,790 drums of hazardous waste from the property and critics and community leaders allege other hazardous wastes were also dumped into underground mine workings beneath the site.

Federal authorities agreed to look into concerns related to Polycythemia Vera specifically in September 2006 after meeting with environmental advocates and health professionals who shared collected data and concerns over the issue.

But Seaman said in December no documented cause for the disorder has yet been determined, making it hard to draw such connections between the disease and the environment.

Among data collected were blood samples from 90 percent of those interviewed to attempt to identify a genetic marker indicating a mutation believed to trigger the disease, said Seaman.

He said efforts will also be made to use information provided during interviews with subjects to determine whether they share a common environmental exposure or other factor that might account for the disease.

That will include the use of Geographic Information System technology to determine whether those afflicted share any geographic commonalities that might explain the illness.

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