First International Conference on
Mining Impacts to the Human and Natural Environments
March 15, 2008
Best Western Conference Center Punta Gorda, FL
Schedule of Events
Welcome- on these pages you will hear from conference attendees about their efforts to ensure that Florida remains a desirable place to live. If you are interested or feel you can assist them, please contact and expand the network.
Here is a note with links from Sydney Bacchus about a local hero working to protect us from benzene found in municipal well waters.
Subject: local hero: benzene and leukemia
Let me take a minute to brag about a local Athens hero - Jill McElheney.
Please see and share the story below about her valiant effort to save one of
her children from death by government neglect.
Most of you are aware that federal Judge Hoevler linked the
benzene-contaminated ground water in Miami-Dade to blasting by the rock
miners in that area. Amazingly M-D shut down their municipal wells when the
contaminant was discovered - but what do residents with private potable
Almost single-handedly, Jill is leading the fight to stop the expansion of
the Athens-Clarke County landfill on OUR side of town here in Georgia.
I'm certainly thankful WE have Jill.
Subject: Part One: Toxin Agency Looks the Other Way
Date: Mar 14, 2008 12:36 AM
Part One: Toxin Agency Looks the Other Way
Critics Claim Toxins Arm of the CDC Ignores Science in Public Health Cases
Petroleum storage facility (istockphoto)
Petroleum storage facility (istockphoto)
By Suemedha Sood 03/12/2008 199 Views --> -->
This is Part One of a two-part report.
Jarrett McElheney was four-years-old when the pain started. His joints
ached. He was tired but couldnıt sleep. His fever wouldnıt go away and he
lost his appetite. After three months of suffering, he was diagnosed with
When Jarrett began chemotherapy, his mother, Jill, sat with him in the
hospital and read about his disease. She spent a lot of time reading
information sent to her by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and she learned
that a petroleum byproduct called benzene was a known cause of leukemia.
That set off alarm bells, because the McElheneys lived 500 feet from a
petroleum tank farm, the term for a petroleum storage facility.
Jill eventually went to talk to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease
Registry, a division of the Centers for Disease Control that investigates
such public health problems. Seven years later, the agency still hasnıt
finished its analysis.
(Matt Mahurin) Six other children living in the area were diagnosed with
cancer around the time Jarrett was. The McElheneys have since moved away
from their Athens, Ga. home and, over the last few years, have warned other
families about living near the hazardous waste site. Since moving, Jarrettıs
cancer has gone into remission and heıs now strong at age 13.
In many states, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana and the
eight Great Lakes states, citizens and scientists have accused the Agency
for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of failing to make links between
public health problems and industrial sources of pollution, contrary to
National coverage of the toxic trailers housing New Orleans residents after
Katrina and of the suppression of a study on environmental hazards in the
Great Lakes has put the spotlight on the agency. Many public activists and
citizen groups across the nation say these are just two examples of cases
that demonstrate an agency pattern of political interference in public
health data. The agency spokesperson Charles Green, however, said he is not
aware of any problems regarding political interference in science at the
Scientists at the agency told The Washington Independent that political
appointees interfere with science that could benefit public health. The
Washington Independent looked into this and found evidence of negligence and
a lack of scientific approach in four ATSDR public health consultations it
investigated. By suppressing health studies, downplaying or avoiding links
between industry and environmental hazards and threatening agency
whistleblowersı careers, the agency may be failing to put science first in
public health investigations.
The Paper Trail
In many cases, evidence shows that the agency suppressed vital public health
information. Both agency officials and citizens have waved flags of possible
cover-ups regarding two studies: one in the Great Lakes states and one in
Last month, the nonprofit investigative journalism group, the Center for
Public Integrity, obtained and published a suppressed study by the ATSDR
called "Public Health Implications of Hazardous Substances in the Twenty-Six
U.S. Great Lakes Areas of Concern." The 400-plus page report found that more
than 9 million people living in 26 "areas of concern" have elevated health
risks associated with exposure to dioxins, pesticides, lead, mercury, PCBs
or six other toxins. These areas include the major metropolitan areas of
Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee.
In many of the Great Lakes areas studied, agency scientists found low birth
weights, high infant mortality rates, high rates of premature births and
high rates of death from breast cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer.
The study was scheduled for release in July 2007, but a few days before
publication, the agency withdrew the report. Dr. Christopher De Rosa,
director of ATSDRıs division of toxicology and environmental medicine,
pushed for the studyıs release. In an email to Dr. Howard Frumkin, the
agency chief, De Rosa said suppressing the report had "the appearance of
censorship of science and distribution of factual information regarding the
health status of vulnerable communities." De Rosa was demoted for "not being
a team player."
Similar events occurred in eastern Pennsylvania. Last year, the agency
conducted an epidemiological study to analyze the high rates of an extremely
rare form of blood cancer called polycythemia vera, or PV.
The agency released an abstract (available here) in December 2007. It found
the rate of PV in three counties surrounding the Tamaqua borough at least
4.5 times higher than the national average. The national PV rate is 0.9 in
100,000, but the rate of confirmed cases in the three Pennsylvania counties
is more than 4 in 100,000, in a population of 527,000. That number only
represents patients registered with the National Cancer Registry, who were
tested for a genetic mutation associated with PV for the study. When
including data from patients who self-reported being diagnosed with PV, that
would bring the rate up to roughly 15 times the national average.
The study linked the high PV rates to environmental influence. It also noted
that 18 of the 38 patients confirmed to have PV lived within a 13-mile
radius of the MacAdoo Associates Superfund Site for more than five years
during the period of 1975 to 1979, when "large quantities of toxic chemicals
were dumped directly into old mine shafts." Those chemicals included heavy
metals and low levels of volatile organic compounds found to be
contaminating the soil. The EPA has since financed clean-up of the site.
Top agency officials issued a statement saying the results "were based on an
ATSDR analysis that was later determined to be inappropriate." They did not
define what they meant by inappropriate. The statement denies any link
between environmental factors and PV casescontrary to scientific data
ruling out other causes. It also says that more analysis is needed to
"understand whether there is any linkage between PV cases and where patients
lived in the past." That would suggest that these PV patients randomly moved
to the same place by coincidence.
The agency says it retracted support of the abstract because the ATSDR
authors used analysis that was later determined inadequate. "The decision
was discussed amongst senior leadership of ATSDR," said spokesperson
Bernadette Burden. "Not the authors."
Dr. Ronald Hoffman, a PV expert at Mount Sinaiıs School of Medicine, is the
lead scientist on the report. He says heıs not sure why the the agency
released its statement. "I honestly donıt know why they said that," Hoffman
said. "They tried to indicate some problem with the data, but in reality,
the cases were validated. Using very rigorous diagnostic criteria, we
found an excess of patients in those areas."
Hoffman, who has spent more than a year working on the report, says that the
studyıs purpose is not to determine any specific external sources linked
with the illness. "It does appear that there are a lot of environmental
challenges in that area, and weıre not sure what is causing [the disease],"
he said. "But my opinion is that itıs something thatıs real, and requires
further, rigorous investigation."
Oncologist/hematologist Zev Wainberg of Santa Monica-UCLAıs Medical Center
and Orthopedic Hospital told The Washington Independent in a January
interview that high rates of PV in such a small population would suggest an
The authors of the PV study are now getting ready to submit their work to
scientific journals for review, despite criticism by the agency. The
abstract was presented to the American Hematology Society in December 2007
and it was published in its journal, Blood.
This is Part One of a two-part report. Part Two will appear tomorrow.
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http://www.washingtonindependent.com/view/part-one-looking-the# Share share
The conference focuses on adverse impacts from mining currently not addressed or evaluated by regulatory agencies and municipalities, as well as alternatives to mining and approaches for improved monitoring and evaluation of existing and proposed mine sites and mine-related impacts. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of scientists, other professionals and citizens, combined with sponsorship by the organizations below to cover conference costs, this conference is free and open to the public. This conference strives to be 100% carbon neutral and environmentally friendly.
Please enjoy your visit, and contact me with your thoughts.