PBB researchers continue study in county

 

Posted on Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 and is filed under FEATURE. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

 

Researchers from Rollins School of Public Healthat Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. are back in Gratiot County for 10 days as part of their ongoing study of the health risks associated with exposure to PBB and other toxic substances once manufactured at the former Velsicol Chemical Co. plant in St. Louis. In addition to scheduling blood tests for area residents three public forums were held this past weekend at the Mid-Michigan District Health Department branch office in Ithaca. Left, Rick Stone of St. Louis and his dad Jim Stone of Elwell look over documents prior to the meeting.

Dr. Michele Marcus, head of the research teams, talks with Norm Keon of the Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force.

by Greg Nelson
Herald Editor

After testing more than 200 area residents in December for exposure to PBB and other hazardous chemicals, researchers from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. are back in Gratiot County continuing the study.

They began additional blood withdrawals last Friday at the Mid-Michigan District Health Department branch office in Ithaca.

In addition, two public forums were held Saturday and one Sunday led by head researcher Dr. Michele Marcus, who made presentations and answered questions from local residents.

Though Sunday nearly 100 blood withdrawals had been taken, and researchers aren’t done yet.

They will remain in the area and be available from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Sunday, March 16, at the health department for anyone still wishing to take part in the ongoing study.

“It’s been great,” Marcus said. “There has been a big turnout so far. Word is spreading. Some (who got tested) say they are sending family members in.”

Researchers are looking for anyone who may have been exposed to PBB or other toxic substances manufactured at the former Velsicol Chemical Co. plant in St. Louis.

They would especially like to hear from former plant workers, their family members and those who live near the plant site.

In addition, a more extensive reproductive health study is being conducted.

For that, Emory officials are targeting adults between the ages of 18 and 57 who are children of former Velsicol and Michigan Chemical Co. workers or lived in St. Louis close to the factory.

Because that’s much more comprehensive, and involves additional tests and paperwork, those taking part will receive compensation.

Marcus has been involved in the study to determine what type of health risks are caused by the exposure to PBB for about 15 years.

Her research is being funded by the National Institute of Health.

But coming to Gratiot County wasn’t initially part of her plan.

“We did not need to reach out to the community,” Marcus said. “That wasn’t a requirement of the grant. But we wanted to come here and let people know what research has found and give them the opportunity to influence future research.”

Until last year, Marcus wasn’t aware of the PBB problems in St. Louis and other locations in the county.

“We didn’t include people from here initially because we didn’t know,” Marcus said.

It wasn’t until she was contacted by Ed Lorenz, a member of the Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force, that local residents became part of the study.

“They saw a documentary (about the PBB study) that didn’t include St. Louis and they became angry,” Marcus said. “We never had any information about the chemical workers.”

That’s because the Michigan Department of Community Health had dropped plant workers and their families from the PBB study in 1990 because they had been exposed to so many other chemicals, not just PBB, she explained.

Marcus then met with Lorenz and other task force members.

“We saw people here needed to be included,” she said.

Marcus got additional funding from the NIH to bring the study to Gratiot County.

“We didn’t have to do that but we wanted to hear what their concerns were,” she said. “I feel a part of my mission is to educate people on the effects of PBB and inform them about the study.”

Those who want to take part can call 888-892-0074 to make an appointment for a blood withdrawal while researchers are still in the area. Walk-ins are also welcome.

For more information about the ongoing PBB study go online to www.pbbregistry.emory.edu.