2009.04.30 – Specter to give Poly V update in Hazleton

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Specter to give Poly V update in Hazleton

BY TOM RAGAN
STAFF WRITER
tragan@standardspeaker.com
Published: Thursday, April 30, 2009 4:14 AM EDT

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter will be at Penn State Hazleton on Friday to update a group of residents on studies into high instances of a rare blood cancer in their neighborhood between McAdoo and Tamaqua.

Specter will join residents, medical professionals and the media at 3:15 p.m. in the Evelyn Graham Academic Building, Room 109, on campus to discuss what some say is a cancer cluster in a section of Rush Township.

Last month, Congress approved $5.5 million for a study to find out why the area experienced so many reported cases of polycythemia vera. The cluster, studies show, extends into parts of Luzerne, Schuylkill and Carbon counties.

About $5 million will be directed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to look at trends, risk factors and environmental impact related to the cluster.

Several years ago, four cases of polycythemia vera — a condition in which the body overproduces red blood cells — showed up in residents along Ben Titus Road in Rush Township. Last August, 33 cases of the rare blood cancer were reported in the tri-county region, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Ben Titus Road is located near a Superfund site between McAdoo and Tamaqua where McAdoo Associates did business and where other sources of hazardous materials turned up several years ago.

Specter, who on Tuesday announced he would switch parties from Republican to Democrat, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Last month, the senator released a statement in support of the federal study. He believes those in the purported cancer cluster have a right to know if the toxic agents in the Superfund site are responsible for the high number of polycythemia vera cases, according to the press release.

“I’ve been working on this for a long time, going back to 2006, and the people in that area are really very worried about this problem, and they’re entitled to have the best answer science can give them. And I think we’re getting there,” Specter said in the release.

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