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Spring house brain cancer study finds no association with workplace

Rohm & Haas Co : 08 January, 2004  (Company News)
An 18-month epidemiological case-control study of 12 malignant brain cancers and 3 benign tumors among approximately 6,000 Spring House employees over the past 40 years has found no statistically significant association with workplace chemicals, according to the study's director, Dr. Arvind V. Carpenter, Director of Epidemiology and Global EHS and Sustainable Development. An outside panel of experts has reviewed the study design, exposure assessment procedure and analytical techniques as well as the study results.
This case-control epidemiological study is designed to determine the association of risk factors and the occurrence of brain cancer. The study included the 12 primary, malignant brain cancer cases and 3 benign tumor cases with matched controls (employees who do not have brain cancer). Employees selected as controls were similar to the cases based on their date of birth, date of hire at Rohm and Haas, race and gender.

The exposure assessment team of 22 health professionals, including physicians, industrial hygienists and chemists, reviewed employment and medical records. These records provided information on department, job title, start and end dates for each job title/department segments, and self-reported medical, lifestyle and non-work related exposures.

The study team reviewed over 2,000 work-related documents, including technical and research reports and scientific notebooks and abstracted over 20,000 chemicals which were sorted into 36 categories for analysis. Whether a person was a case or a control was not known to the document reviewers, abstracters or data entry staff.

In addition to specific chemicals, the study looked at work location as a risk factor. Although several of the individuals with brain cancer worked on similar projects and in the same building during their careers, no one building or lab was found to be associated with brain cancer.

A statistical analysis for more than 100 risk factors was conducted to determine what, if any, potential workplace chemical exposures were associated with the brain cancer cases. None were found to be statistically significant.

In the analysis of building location, several of the individuals with brain cancer worked on similar projects and in the same building at one time during their careers, but in no case was there statistical significance when compared with the control population.

Dr. Carpenter, speaking on behalf of the study team, said: 'It is my belief that based on the study findings and review of the current health and safety practices, Spring House is a safe place to work.' The Company intends to publish the study results in a peer-reviewed journal later this year.

The Company also plans to begin a study of all deaths of Spring House employees, called a cohort mortality study. That will provide additional understanding of whether the number of brain cancer cases is actually higher among Spring House employees than the general US population and what, if any other cancer rates may be prevalent. That study will begin this spring and be completed within the next 2 years or by the end of 2006.

The Company routinely conducts epidemiological studies if there is reason to believe that workplace exposure or disease rates warrant investigation. The Spring House study was initiated as a result of concerns expressed by employees about brain cancer cases at Spring House, including a recent diagnosis of one of its former researchers as well as the publication of a similar study of brain cancer among Amoco research scientists. The Company regularly maintains and tracks cancer diagnoses and deaths among its employees.
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