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Further Insight On NIOSH IBM Cancer Study

The five year study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health does not show a definitive link between IBM workers job duties and cancer rates.
The five year study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health does not show a definitive link between IBM workers job duties and cancer rates.

It also shows that the overall total number of deaths from all causes and cancers are lower among IBM workers in the study than the general population. However, the study does show that the 34,000 former IBM workers were more susceptible to getting five specific types of cancer. Study results show a higher rate than normal of testicular cancer and a larger frequency of deaths from rectal, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, mesothelioma and pleural cancer, which can occur near the lungs. Many of the former IBM employees worked with chemicals, including TCE and PCE, which is one of the reasons why a group of stakeholders in the community pushed for the study.

They wanted to know if the the chemical exposure put workers at a greater risk for getting a variety of diseases. Due to the limitations of the study, that question may never be truly answered. Sharon Silver headed up NIOSH's study.

"We are not in a position to find definitive links, because the outcomes that we found, where we found elevations, they could be do to job exposures on the site. They could be due to other jobs that workers held previously at other work sites," said Silver.

The study did not take into account former workers individual health records from their doctors. Doctor Richard Clapp is a Professor at Boston University. He authored two studies of IBM workers, including a cancer study of IBM workers in Endicott. Clapp says he wouldn't expect a definitive conclusion to be drawn from the study, but he believes the results shows links between chemicals and diseases, which is what some people suspected.

"As the story continues, people need to be vigilant to see if anything else develops. The initial concern was right and this study, although it may not definitely answer all the individual questions, it adds to the weight of evidence that they were right in the first place," said Clapp.

Wanda Hudak is one of the community members who pushed for the study. She says it's important documentation that she hopes will help microelectronics manufacturing facilities do better jobs of protecting workers. Hudak also encourages people to come out to a community meeting that NIOSH will be at.

"I want everybody to know that we have not given up. We have not stopped. We would like as many people as possible to fill the First United Methodist Church on January 23rd at 6:30 so that all these people who did the study will be there, and they'll know that we are still interested," said Hudak.

As Hudak said, the meeting will be on the 23rd of this month at 6:30 p.m. at the United Methodist Church at 53 McKinley Ave. in Endicott.

In a statement, an IBM spokesman says that the company has and will continue to focus on the health and wellness of its employees.
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