Health Department reports error in asbestos study

12/12/08 7:04AM By John Dillon

(Host) The state Health Department says it made an error in a recent report that pointed to higher cancer rates in towns surrounding an old asbestos mine in northern Vermont. But it says the study still shows higher rates of another asbestos-related disease.

The department said it re-examined the data used in the study. And it's no longer saying that people living near the mine had a higher rate of lung cancer.

Health Commissioner Doctor Wendy Davis says the error occurred because researchers mistakenly included the city of Newport in the data. She said the researchers should have excluded Newport City from the communities that are within a 10 mile radius of the mine.

(Wendy Davis) "And what happened was there were some lung cancer cases in Newport City that contributed to our conclusion that was an elevated rate of lung cancer in these towns within the 10 mile radius of the mine. And in fact when you take those Newport City cases out, that apparent increase does not hold up."

(Host) The state is concerned about the mine because huge piles of waste asbestos remain at the site. Asbestos exposure has been linked to lung cancer, and also to the lung disease asbestosis.

Davis says the data does show a higher rate of asbestosis disease and death in the region. And she says the warning from health officials remains the same.

(Davis) "It doesn't significantly change on our broader messages about the fact that if folks want to take steps now the thing that probably makes the most sense is not to spend time on the mine site, to not undertake recreational activities on the mine site."

(Host) The mine in Lowell and Eden may eventually become a Superfund site administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

 

 

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