2007.12.08 – Study ties blood disorder cases to McAdoo site

December 8, 2007

Health risk? Study ties blood disorder cases to McAdoo site

By DONALD R. SERFASS dserfass@tnonline.com

A federal study seems to suggest that a former McAdoo waste dumping site might contributing to a high incidence of a rare blood disorder seen locally.

The connection is made in a report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and is found in Abstract #264 of Blood, Volume 110, issue 11, November 16, 2007.

The report suggests that there exists “significant evidence” that residents living within proximity of McAdoo Associates Superfund site might face an increased risk of developing polycythemia vera (PV).

The ATSDR investigation identified a total of 131 possible PV cases, including 97 state cancer registry and 34 self-reported cases, of which 72 agreed to be interviewed and 63 were tested for the illness.

The report indicates that family relationships, work and recreational pursuits don’t appear to be factors leading to the illness.

“A spatial scan statistical analysis identified this area as a significant cluster and individuals living within this area had a 4.5 times greater risk of developing PV compared to individuals residing in the remainder of the three counties,” states the report.

The report also indicates that four such cases “were identified within the described area along a 2-mile stretch of a single street containing 70 homes, including two individuals who lived in the same dwelling.”

Furthermore, “the lack of traditional epidemiological explanations and the high degree of statistical certainty for the geographical association of the cases strongly suggests that an external influence led to the development of PV,” it states.

The ATSDR will present its findings on Monday at a meeting in Atlanta of the American Society of Hematology.

The observations in the abstract represent something of an about-face by the government, something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by local environmentalists.

“I was surprised by the ATSDR’s 180-degree turn since the Hazleton meeting 6 weeks ago,” said Dante Picciano of the 1,100-member Army for a Clean Environment.

“My belief is that the ATSDR was pressured by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to downplay the significance of the polycythemia vera cancer crisis in this area in order to protect industry. The ATSDR scientists decided to tell the truth at the meeting of the American Society of Hematology meeting in Atlanta on Monday.”

Picciano believes there was an attempt to protect industry.

“It is also my belief that Senator Specter was acting in concert with the PA DOH. He is an intelligent man and I cannot believe that he was misled by the ATSDR. The agency would be committing political suicide if they misled him. He is in bed with the PA DOH to protect industry. What is next? The ATSDR must be invited in by the PA DOH but I feel that the ATSDR should conduct thorough and complete epidemiological studies to attempt to find the specific chemical or chemicals responsible for the polycythemia vera epidemic. The ATSDR should also conduct studies to determine how many other types of cancer are elevated in this area. I fear that the polycythemia vera problem is only the tip of the cancer iceberg problem in this area,” Picciano said.

The McAdoo area site has been the subject of much study and controversy, with fears increasing exponentially as rare cancers have begun surfacing among the local population.

A federal cleanup at the site in Kline Township in the 1980s resulted in the removal of 7,000 drums of chemicals.

However, nobody was ever sure of the extent of the problem or even how many other chemicals and toxins might have been dumped into open mine voids where they remain.

The site was once a mining operation and later used by a metal reclamation and incineration enterprise.

PV is an illness which results in an increase in the number of red blood cells and is typically referred to as a bone marrow cancer.