Health study planned for St. Louis chemical workers and families

Health study planned for St. Louis chemical workers and families


By Linda Gittleman, The Morning Sun

POSTED: 10/03/13, 5:03 PM EDT | UPDATED: 9 HRS AGO

For years, Alma College Professor Dr. Ed Lorenz has been trying to get a health study concerning the contamination from the Velsicol Chemical plant in St. Louis and its effects on the people .

He ran up against a brick wall repeatedly .

But now, thanks to study being conducted by Emory University, a look at the effects of PBB on the people who worked at the St. Louis plant and their families will be included.

Until the Pine River Superfund Task Force contacted them, the study was going to only include farmers and their families in other parts of the state.

The funding request to include the St. Louis chemical workers and their families has been approved.

“Last year, the community conducted a major health assessment called Live Well Gratiot,” said Marcus Cheatham, health officer for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department. “The effects of toxic chemicals were among the top health concerns identified in the assessment.”

“This is personal for the health department, because some of our employees or their family members, including our medical director, Dr. (Robert) Graham, worked at the plant or were exposed,” he added.

The goal, Lorenz said, is to include all residents in the St. Louis area who might be concerned.

“We are all going to search for funding so we can expand (the study),” he said. “I think there’s a good chance we will.”

The fact that a health study will be conducted at all is “amazing,” Lorenz said.

‘it’s fantastic to have them,” he said. “And, I think we’re going to have fantastic public outreach.”

The next step in the process will be to hold a general public meeting, likely to take place in early December, Lorenz said.

That meeting would include the sharing of PBB research, and answering community members’ health concerns and questions

Another meeting would follow a few months later, which would include a health screening.

The study is important to the community.

“People think the health department is funded to do this kind of research, but we are not,” Cheatham said. “It is frustrating. Without partners like the task force and Emory we would be in the dark about the long term effects of PBBs in the community.”

The study centers around the incident in the 1970s, when a fire retardant – largely made up of PBBs – was mixed into the cattle feed.