2007.12.10 – Feds waffle on McAdoo Associates health risk links

Times News
December 10, 2007

Yes, no, maybe so

Feds waffle on McAdoo Associates health risk links

By DONALD R. SERFASS dserfass@tnonline.com

A federal paper which suggested that a former McAdoo waste dumping site might be contributing to a high incidence of a rare blood disorder seen locally is now under scrutiny.

The paper, by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, is Abstract No. 264 of Blood, Volume 110, issue 11, November 16, 2007.

The report suggests that there exists “significant evidence” that residents living within the general proximity of McAdoo Associates Superfund site might face an increased risk of developing polycythemia vera (PV), a type of blood or bone marrow cancer.

But on Friday, the agency said the abstract is incorrect and that the data was put together and released prior to additional review by both the ATSDR and the PA Department of Health.

That explanation, however, doesn’t fly with local environmentalists, who felt that the truth would finally emerge at a meeting set for today.

“I have just been informed that at the Monday meeting in Atlanta, the ATSDR will state that the information in its abstract is incorrect and that the information presented at the Hazleton meeting six weeks ago was correct. I pointed out that the ATSDR had the opportunity to file a corrected abstract but did not. The agency is back pedaling because of pressure from other government agencies,” said Dante Picciano of the Army for a Clean Environment.

The ATSDR investigation had 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 indicated 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,” stated the report.

The report also indicated 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 suggested that an external influence led to the development of PV,” it stated.

The ATSDR was expected to present its findings today in Atlanta to the American Society of Hematology.

“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,” said Picciano on Friday when it appeared “that the ATSDR scientists decided to tell the truth.”

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.