2009.03.12 – Cluster researcher to speak before Congress today


Cluster researcher to speak before Congress today

Published: Thursday, March 12, 2009 4:06 AM EDT

The lead researcher into a cancer cluster between McAdoo and Tamaqua is scheduled to tell Congress today that a federal agency requested extra tests before linking the cases to environmental factors.

Dr. Ronald Hoffman of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and his colleagues wrote about the link in an abstract of a paper that they presented in December 2007.

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry withdrew from the paper and pressured Hoffman not to present it to the American Society of Hematology.

“I thought they were trying to always increase the hurdles so they could disprove what to me was basically pretty obvious,” Hoffman told the Associated Press.

The House Science and Technology investigations and oversight subcommittee is holding hearings today into the agency. A report that the committee wrote after interviewing agency workers and private scientists said agency officials “deny, delay, minimize, trivialize or ignore legitimate health concerns.”

The report obtained in advance by the Associated Press raised other issues, including:

n Insufficient sampling that the agency used to conclude that none of 100 tested chemicals exceeded safe levels near a Dayton, Ohio, plant where residents complained of odors and health problems.

n The agency decided against further study in Colonie, N.Y., where a company once made military weapons with uranium and uranium was found in 20 percent of the residents.

n In Elkhart, Ind., the agency seemed to overlook studies associating low levels of trichloroethylene found in a neighborhood with cancer and birth defects.

On Ben Titus Road between McAdoo and Tamaqua, researchers found four cases of polycythemia vera, a disease that some consider cancer in which the body overproduces red blood cells.

In all, 33 cases of polycythemia vera were detected in a region that took in parts of Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne counties, and the incidences exceeded expectations.