2009.03.12 – N.Y. researcher to present on study before Congress today

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N.Y. researcher to present on study before Congress today

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.

Staff and wire reports
Published: Thursday, March 12, 2009 8:10 AM EDT

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 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, Hoffman said.

“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:

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

Hoffman and co-authors, including Dr. Paul Roda, Hazleton, presented the paper to the Society of Hematology but without mentioning the agency, which had helped in the research.

A revised abstract of their paper — deleting the environmental link to the disease — was put on the society’s Web site.

Then in August 2008, the agency published a report that confirmed the findings of Hoffman’s study.

“They did additional statistical analyses. Our conclusions were correct that there were an excess number of polycythemia cases in the area,” Hoffman wrote Wednesday in an e-mail. “We still do not know what is the cause.”

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