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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


Dear all,


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

wells do?


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

scientific findings.


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

eastern Pennsylvania.


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 cases‹contrary 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. Š 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

environmental cause.


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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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.

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Do not reproduce without permission.
Last updated March 23, 2008