Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Northeast Pennsylvania Polycythemia Vera Investigation

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Northeast Pennsylvania Polycythemia Vera (PV) Investigation


In 2004, using state cancer registry records, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) found a PV cluster in northeast Pennsylvania. PV is part of a disease group called myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), which is a group of slow-growing blood cancers where the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets.

In 2006, ATSDR was asked to help study PV patterns in the area. From 2007-2008, ATSDR reviewed medical records, conducted genetic testing, and confirmed this PV cluster.

In 2009, Congress funded ATSDR to continue this investigation. ATSDR is overseeing 18 projects with PADOH, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and various universities and private organizations. These projects are based on recommendations from an expert panel. The panel identified four areas for investigation; epidemiology, genetics, toxicology, and environmental studies.

In 2014, the last of the contracts for the 18 different projects ended.



The graphic with this email provides a summary of the status of each of the 18 projects as of October 2014.  I’ve attached this graphic both as a “snapshot” in the body of this email, as well as a pdf attachment.  Projects highlighted in “green” in the attached graphic have work complete and a final product available (if applicable).  Projects highlighted in “yellow” have final products in progress and undergoing clearance.  Projects highlighted in “red” have final products that are anticipated but not yet started.  The shapes of the projects in the graphics give you an idea of the category of work of that project, as described in the key on the graphic.


As of October 30, 2014, work is complete and a final product is available (if applicable) for 10 projects.  We are happy to announce that 3 new projects (#11, #13, and #18) moved from yellow to green since my April 2014 update:

  • #11:  “Comparative 4-County Study in South Central PA,” conducted by the University of Pittsburgh (Dr. Joel Weissfield) under contract with PADOH.  Final report received.  ATSDR/CDC summary factsheet on ATSDR website at:
  • #13:  “Case Control Study,” conducted by Drexel University (Dr. Carolann Gross-Davis).  Drexel PhD dissertation completed.  Note, this was the one project out of the 18 that was funded via  via a directed appropriation to that university.  Please contact Dr. Gross-Davis regarding requests for further information about her report/dissertation via the contact information on her website at
  • #18: “Air/Water Exposure Assessment,” conducted by Equity Environmental Engineering.  Two final reports (one on water/hydrogeology and one on air) received.  Two ATSDR summary factsheets are on the ATSDR website at:


Final products for another projects are in progress; this is an increase in one project moving from red to yellow (#14) since my August 2014 update.  A final product for 1 project (#6) is anticipated but not yet started.


For more information:

Visit ATSDR’s web page on PV:

Call ATSDR’s toll-free PV information line: 866-448-0242 or email jcx0@cdc, which will connect you to Dr. Elizabeth Irvin-Barnwell, ATSDR Division of Toxicology and Human Health Sciences.

Contact Lora Siegmann Werner, ATSDR Region 3, by phone at 215-814-3141 or by email at


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