Congressman: NIOSH Moving Forward with TCE Study

A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study that will examine trichloroethylene (TCE) exposure and cancer rates among IBM employees who worked at the company's Endicott site is moving forward as expected with adequate funding, according to a New York congressman.

A NIOSH update report released May 28 stated the study's future depends on a special appropriation in next year's budget. But Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., said in a statement that a representative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which oversees NIOSH, informed him that the report was “misleading” and that the study is proceeding as planned.

In an e-mail to Hinchey's office, the CDC representative wrote: "CDC has begun the study – with protocol development and external peer review – and will continue with data collection and analysis for the next 2 years. CDC is spending approximately $400,000 with FY 08 funds. CDC will spend what is required next year to fund the data collection and analysis part of the study."

NIOSH has estimated that the study would require $3.1 million in funding.

Hinchey: Study is Critical

“I am very pleased that the NIOSH study is continuing to move forward as expected and that funding for it is not in jeopardy," Hinchey said. "This study will provide us with valuable statistics about the threat that TCE exposure and contamination has on our local communities. It is critical to our efforts to ensure that the public is protected from the chemical and that polluters are held accountable for its misuse.”

The need for a cancer study stems from a longstanding question of whether or not workers are exposed to various chemicals, including trichloroethylene (TCE), from a chemical spill that occurred on the IBM Endicott facility (now owned by Huron Real Estate Associates) in 1979. A study by the New York City Department of Health indicated that a town near the facility had a high incidence of birth defects and certain cancers, such as kidney and testicular cancer.

Six years ago, EPA conducted a Health Risk Assessment that determined TCE to be five to 65 times more toxic than originally thought.

In 2007, Hinchey used his position on the House Appropriations Committee to secure congressional approval of a measure directing NIOSH to use funds within its existing budget to conduct the study, which potentially could show a link between increased cancer rates and TCE exposure. After Congress approved the study language, Hinchey's office said it received assurances from CDC that NIOSH would respond positively to Congress’ request and conduct the study.

Furthermore, in 2003, Hinchey worked to include language in a federal bill to have the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conduct its health-risk study. He also pressed the New York State Department of Health to develop its own risk standards. And earlier this year, Hinchey and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., introduced the Toxic Chemical Exposure (TCE) Reduction Act to urge EPA to quickly develop health safety standards to improve the government's ability to protect public health from TCE.

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