Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) (pg. B1) [Printer-friendly version] October 7, 2006 AGENCIES TO STUDY BLOOD DISEASE Specter Announces Health Probe In Carbon, Schuylkill and Luzerne. By Chris Parker Of The Morning Call People have suspected for years that industrial chemicals leaching from the McAdoo Associates Superfund site in Kline Township have caused illnesses, including a rare blood disease , in residents. Now the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will team up with the state Health Department to study people in Schuylkill, Luzerne and Carbon counties who have been diagnosed with the blood-thickening disease polycythemia vera , U.S. Sen. Arlen G. Specter, R-Pa., announced during a visit to the site Friday.The study will examine the cases, how they were diagnosed and registered with government agencies, the characteristics of the people who have been diagnosed and where they live, and how that is related to possible environmental exposures. The agencies will look at the cases and "see if there is any connection with environmental conditions," said Thomas Sinks, deputy director of the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Center for Disease Control. The agency, the "public health side of the Superfund Act" works with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Sinks said. One question the study aims to answer is how many people actually have the disease. The state has required doctors to report cases only since 2001. But he cautioned the study probably will not identify the cause of the disease. Some people believe polycythemia vera is linked to industrial chemicals, and Specter said the "area has been a dumping ground" for pollutants. One doctor, Peter Baddick of West Penn Township, said an oncologist has told him there have been at least 90 confirmed cases of polycythemia vera in the area around the McAdoo site. Baddick said he wants the study to include leukemia and other blood cancers. Several residents of Ben Titus Road, downhill from the McAdoo site, say they have the disease. The Health Department has logged 82 cases of polycythemia vera diagnosed from 2001 to 2004 in all of Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne counties. Specter was joined at the site by U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-17th District; state Sen. James J. Rhoades, R-Schuylkill; state Rep. David G. Argall, R-Schuylkill; state Health Secretary Calvin B. Johnson; Linda R. Dietz of the EPA; and Sinks. Specters announcement came a week after scientists from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry met with state health officials in Schuylkill County to discuss the incidence of the disease. The ground under the site is honeycombed with old coal mines into which the chemicals were dumped. EPA test wells were dug to 200 feet; the mine pools were about 1,200 feet underground. Baddick and others say materials from the site have leached into nearby wells and the Still Creek Reservoir, about a mile from the site, where Tamaqua gets its water. DEP has tested the reservoir and the wells and has said the water in them meets federal safety standards. Tamaqua Water Authority also had the reservoir tested and says the results show no contamination. The EPA drew rebukes from those who believe local water has been tainted by saying in an August bulletin that water from private wells and treated water from the Still Creek Reservoir is not contaminated by pollutants. The bulletin is endorsed by the state departments of Health and Environmental Protection and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Scientists and doctors from the health department and the agency who attended the Sept. 29 discussion also said no cause has been found for polycythemia vera, so a link to pollutants is unclear. At the conference, Health Department epidemiologist Gene Weinberg, who was part of a study of the cancer rate in the Tamaqua/McAdoo area, said all of Schuylkill has 22 cases of the disease, which can be classified as a cancer twice the state average. But most of the cases are at least a dozen miles east of the Superfund site, in Pottsville and Frackville, which had four cases each, and Mahanoy City, which had three. McAdoo Associates operated a metal reclamation and incineration facility until a state permit was revoked in 1979. EPA found the soil there contaminated with heavy metals and low levels of various volatile organic compounds. Under EPA supervision, contaminated soil was excavated and the site was capped a process completed in 1992. email@example.com; 610-379-3224. Copyright (c) 2006, The Morning Call, Inc.