PBB researchers may return to county for more testing

Posted on Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Dr. Michele Marcus, seen here talking to Norm Keon, a member of the Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force in 2014, heads the team from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. that conducted blood tests on several hundred Gratiot County residents in 2013 and 2014. They could return in April for more testing if funding is available. (Herald photo – Nelson)

by Greg Nelson

Herald Editor

More PBB testing on Gratiot County residents could take place again this year.

Researchers from the Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, Ga. have applied for a grant to pay for the ongoing study.

Their application “scored very high,” which means getting the money is likely, according to Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force Secretary Jane Keon.

A second review of the grant application will take place soon, at which time it will learn if the funding has been granted.

If so, “they plan to get underway here in our community in April,” Keon said.

“They will need to test 500 individuals to get 100 for their experimental work to see if a certain substance, when ingested, can speed elimination of PBB and DDT from the body,” she explained.

The group will also be looking for 20 families for the epigenetic study.

“Ideally the family would have a father who was occupationally exposed, either in the chemical plant or on a farm, the mother not exposed to that extent, and children and grandchildren of that couple,” Keon said. “The reason they want the original mother to have lower exposure is to determine if the effects of PBB exposure can be passed from the father to the children.

“We already know that exposed mothers can pass it to their babies through gestation in the womb and breast feeding. To determine if it is passed epigenetically they need 20 three-generational families in which the father had high exposure.”

Emory University researchers have already been to Gratiot County twice to conduct free PBB screenings – in March 2013 in St. Louis and April 2014 at the Mid-Michigan District Health Department in Ithaca.

A total of about 500 people were tested during those visits.

Most of those who took part signed up to become part of the university’s PBB registry.

In addition, 46 men and 38 women volunteered to be part of a reproductive study that was also being conducted.

PBB exposure can affect the endocrine, immune and reproductive systems, and adversely impact liver function.

It can also cause skin rashes, hair loss, memory loss, and joint problems, among other health-related issues.

Initial results from the earlier blood samples taken showed that the median level of PBB in people’s bloodstreams in this area was higher than that of the general population in other parts of the United States.

However, “a major lab problem occurred” during that investigation, and testing had to start all over from scratch, Keon said.

“Luckily they drew plenty of blood from us and had plenty to work with,” she added.

Another part of the grant that the researchers are seeking would provide money for remote testing kits for children who grew up here and moved away.

“They will be able to have their local physician draw blood and mail it to the Emory research team,” Keon said.

Anyone interested in taking part in a future study can call Emory University at 888-892-0047 or send an email to PBBregistry@emory.edu.

Those who would like more information or sign up for the PBB registry can go online to www.pbbregistry.emory.edu.