2007.12.17 – Feds Backpedal
Feds Backpedal From Controversial Report on Pennsylvania Cancer Cluster
By Brandon Keim EmailDecember 17, 2007 | 2:36:33 PMCategories: Disease, Environment, Mystery
Mcadoo_site Pollution from a former toxic waste dump in Pennsylvania’s Kline Township may have caused a statistically improbable rash of rare cancers, says a report presented last week at the American Society of Hematology’s annual meeting.
The federal Agency on Toxic Substances and Disease Registry commissioned the report. But after an abstract was publicly released, agency officials called the findings biased and misleading.
Located in eastern Pennsylvania’s Schuykill County, Kline Township and the borough of McAdoo housed coal mines converted in 1975 into dumps by McAdoo Associates, a hazardous waste recycling company. Paint sludge, solvents, PCBs and other carcinogens were haphazardly thrown into the mine shafts until 1979, when state environmental officials shut them down. The Environmental Protection Agency later classified the dumps as Superfund sites.
In 2001, the EPA took the sites off the Superfund list, but didn’t fully account for all the waste deposited there. Residents say McAdoo and the government failed to completely clean up and believe pollution caused freakishly high local levels of polycythemia vera, a rare form of cancer characterized by red blood cell overproduction.
In the fall of 2006, state officials asked the ATSDR to study the reported cancer cluster. The ATSDR, who officially state that “site-related contamination poses no public health hazard because there is no evidence of current or past exposures,” contracted Mount Sinai School of Medicine cancer researcher Ronald Hoffman to do the work.
In October of this year, Hoffman announced that 38 cases of polycythemia vera had been diagnosed during the last five years in eastern Schuykill County and the northern part of neighboring Luzerne County. Statistically, only 25 cases were expected — and of the 38 people with cancer, nearly half lived within 13 miles of the Kline Township dump site.
The findings delivered at last week’s American Society for Hematology annual meeting refined those numbers. People inside the 13-mile radius had 4.5 times the risk of developing polycythemia vera as did people in the same counties who lived farther from the site. The cancers weren’t hereditary, and represented “a conservative estimate of the total number of actual cases.”
Reads the abstract,
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…. Finally, the results of this investigation provide, for the first time, significant evidence for an association between an as yet uncharacterized external stimulus and the development of [polycythemia vera].
It’s pretty clear what Hoffman implied by “uncharacterized external stimulus.” He noted in the abstract, “the Environmental Protection Agency completed surface remediation in the early 90s, but was unable to determine the extent and fate of the chemicals poured into the mine.” Adding some details to the assertion are the 2006 remarks of a physican to a local newspaper: “There’s no evidence to suggest that the EPA went into the mine pool to retrieve the chemicals…. They did a geo-probe to 125 feet and found no evidence of barrels so they closed the opening to the mine shaft. The mine pool goes to 1,200 feet.”
The ATSDR wasn’t happy.
“We essentially jumped the gun in releasing something we ultimately don’t think is true,” an ATSDR epidemiologist told The Morning Call. Agency officials claimed Hoffman’s findings were biased by a failure to consider that many of the cases were diagnosed in people who’d lived in multiple places during the Kline Township cleanup.
In other words, there was a polycythemia vera cluster — but only because people with the rare disease moved to the same place, which just happened to be near a controversial toxic waste site.
I’ve left messages with Hoffman and the ATSDR. More to come….
Cancer conflict [Republican Herald]
PV report requires further review [Republican Herald]
Study finding link to rare cancer based on error, officials say [The Morning Call]
* Nevada Cancer Cluster Not Coincidental, New Findings Suggest
* Medical Mystery Baffles Southern Doctors
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Oh, Come ON!!! These ATSDR “researchers” are expecting us to swallow the story that the reason there is a higher incidence of polycythemia vera within a tight radius of the toxic waste site, is that a larger # of sufferers from the rare disease just happened to all randomly move within 13 miles of the site? That is totally ludicrous! This is the poster example of why the American people have lost faith in their government at every level. Absolutely pathetic!
Posted by: Gray | Dec 17, 2007 12:07:45 PM
It is widely know that people who suffer from polycythemia vera tend to flock together and roam the country side looking for a place to settle. They don’t even know they’re doing it.
Posted by: alipschitz | Dec 17, 2007 1:37:32 PM