May 4, 2000
IDPH ANNOUNCES PRELIMINARY RESULTS OF EUC STUDY
SPRINGFIELD, IL -- Overall cancer deaths among about 2,000 former employees of the LaSalle Electrical Utilities Company (EUC) were comparable to national rates, but researchers found some site-specific cancers were at higher than expected levels, according to a preliminary mortality study (PDF format, 542K) released today by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, noted that the study is ongoing and over the next 18 months the Department will attempt to locate another 800 former EUC workers for inclusion in a final report to be issued in 2002.
The initial examination of former EUC employee death records revealed that 232 died with cancer, higher than the 203 expected when compared to national data, but within the range of cases that would be expected in a random sample of the population.
Further, the study found that male workers with at least 10 years on the job and who had lived at least 20 years since starting their employment had elevated death rates for stomach and thyroid cancers. Similarly, female workers with 10 years at the plant and who lived 20 years since beginning their EUC employment had increased liver-gallbladder cancer mortality.
Although the numbers of these cancer cases were small and not all workers have been located, the Department and the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, which assisted with the study, believe the results suggest a possible link to employment at EUC, which was designated a Superfund site in 1982 because of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination.
We are providing this information to EUC employees so it can be shared with their doctors, Dr. Lumpkin said. While we cannot say definitely there is a cause and effect relationship between these cancers and working at EUC and the results may change as more workers are located, there is enough evidence to support informing former workers so they can keep the information in mind as they regularly monitor their health.
The results of the preliminary study will be discussed with former EUC workers and the public at two availability sessions to be held on May 9 at St. Johns Lutheran Church, 2000 Luther Drive, in Peru. Those attending will receive one-on-one consultation from researchers who conducted the study. The first session is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and the second will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Using Social Security Administration records, researchers have been able to locate 1,976 former EUC employees who worked at least three months at the plant between 1944 and 1977. In cases where the former employees had died, death records were examined to see if the employees experienced greater than expected death rates from cancer or other causes.
The study looked at 768 men, 80 of whom died with cancer, while national statistics suggest 67 cancer deaths would be expected in a similar group. Of the 1,208 women included in the study, 152 died of cancer; national data reports that 136 deaths would be expected.
For site-specific cancers, those with elevated rates included two men who died with thyroid cancer, three men with stomach cancer and four women with liver-gallbladder cancer. When compared to national averages, less than one case of each of these cancers would have been expected. All of these employees had worked at EUC for more than 10 years and had lived for at least 20 years since their initial employment at the plant, a sufficient amount of time for cancers to develop.
The Department, in cooperation with the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, began the study in 1995 in response to requests by EUC workers to investigate possible health effects, particularly cancer, of working at the plant.
A separate study of 220 former workers and area residents conducted to address concerns of adverse health effects resulting from exposure to chemicals at the plant is expected to be completed this fall. Participants submitted blood and urine samples and answered extensive medical and work history questionnaires. The blood and urine were analyzed for possible effects of PCBs and other chemicals on the immune system, hormone levels and liver function. Researchers are looking at participants exposure to PCBs or other chemicals at the plant and attempting to identify subtle health effects.
The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) also has awarded the Department funding to contact about 900 former workers by telephone this fall to learn more about their medical and work histories.
ATSDR has provided nearly $1 million to fund the various EUC worker studies.
EUC manufactured electrical products at the LaSalle plant for 38 years before closing in 1981. Workers used PCBs and other chemicals to make electrical capacitors. Because PCBs and other chemicals had spilled or leaked at EUC, the site was placed on the National Priorities List (often called the Superfund list) in 1982. The federal government incinerated nearly 150,000 tons of PCB-contaminated soil excavated from the EUC and nearby properties between 1988 and 1993.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Questions or Comments