March 20, 1996
PARTICIPANTS SOUGHT FOR EUC HEALTH STUDY
SPRINGFIELD, IL -- The Illinois Department of Public Health is recruiting participants for a polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure health study of former employees of the LaSalle Electrical Utilities Company (EUC).
The joint study with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will examine possible adverse health effects that may be related to PCB exposure.
The Department, in cooperation with the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, will contact all former EUC workers about the study, which is scheduled to begin this summer and will include sampling of blood and urine and a review of participants' medical histories. The study is to include about 250 former EUC workers and 50 area residents who will serve as a control group.
Letters were mailed today to former EUC workers to locate potential study participants and they will be asked to complete and return information forms. Once the information has been received, the workers will be contacted by phone to determine their willingness to participate in the study.
Former employees who do not receive a letter by April 1 should contact the LaSalle County Health Department (815-433-3366) or the Illinois Department of Public Health (217-782-5830).
Blood and urine samples will be evaluated for possible effects of PCBs on the immune system, hormone levels and liver functions. Researchers will look at the participants' exposure to PCBs at the plant and attempt to identify subtle health effects.
There is no conclusive scientific evidence on how prolonged exposure to PCBs can affect a person's health, but laboratory tests on animals have found PCBs can cause such adverse health effects as skin irritations and rashes (such as chloracne), liver damage, kidney damage, cancer and damage to the reproductive and immune systems.
The Department has been awarded nearly $390,000 since 1993 to study the effects of PCBs in the LaSalle area. A pilot study completed in February 1995 found higher than average background concentrations of PCBs in the blood of EUC workers. The 60 workers tested had an average of 15 parts per billion of PCBs in their blood compared with an expected average of 5 parts per billion in unexposed individuals. The study also found a relationship between the length of employment and concentration of PCBs.
A cancer mortality study of former EUC workers also is underway. Social Security Administration records are being used to assemble a complete record of workers employed at EUC from 1944 through 1981. Death certificates are to be obtained for deceased individuals and the number of deaths due to cancer will be evaluated.
EUC discontinued the use of PCBs at the LaSalle site in 1978 and the plant, which began operations in the 1940s, closed in 1981. The site was placed on the National Priorities List (often called the Superfund list) in 1982 because PCBs used in the manufacture of electrical capacitors had spilled or leaked onto the facility's grounds. The federal government incinerated nearly 150,000 tons of PCB contaminated soil excavated from the EUC site and nearby properties between 1988 and 1993.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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