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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI notifying Chafee staff, faculty,
graduate students of medical testing
Letter has gone out detailing the process

KINGSTON, R.I, -- February 11, 2002 –The University of Rhode Island has begun offering a PCB blood serum medical screening program to University employees and graduate students who have worked in the Chafee Social Science Center.

The testing is part of the $3.8 million effort to test the building, remove materials containing the PCBs, clean and renovate the lecture hall and office high rise complex and conduct an epidemiological study of the occupants of Chafee dating back to 1972.

The University is offering the medical testing at no cost to its faculty, staff and graduate students as a community service following several requests after the building was closed. Undergraduate students are not being tested because environmental health specialists believe that their exposures were minimized by their limited amount of time in the building and because many only took classes in lecture halls where testing detected either no levels of PCBs or levels well below federal limits.

The blood test for PCBs will provide information concerning current PCB serum levels. However, the results cannot identify the source of exposure(s) or the length of exposure time. Moreover, results from this test will not tell whether the person is at risk for, or has experienced any adverse health effects because of PCB exposure.

The medical testing program slated for the occupants of the building has been reviewed and approved by the University’s Institutional Review Board, ensuring that all standards are met for human subject testing. J. Vernon Wyman, assistant vice president for business services, said oversight and coordination of the review by Chad Henderson; director of URI’s Health Services, and Robert LaForge, professor of psychology in the Cancer Prevention Research Center, have been an important part of the process.

The notification letter states that most people have low levels of PCBs in their bodies through exposure to consumption of certain types of fish, meat and dairy products, through occupational sources and through contamination of air, water and soil.

Testing is entirely voluntary and results are confidential. Those interested in the test will have to make an appointment by calling the URI Health Center at 874-4751. Participants will receive results about two months after blood is drawn, and a trained occupational physician will be available to participants and their health care providers for consultation. Participants will also receive information about PCB levels from other comparable studies to determine if their results are higher, the same or lower than the people in the comparable group.

Later next year, a public meeting will be held and a web site will contain a final summary report based on all study participants. Again, confidentiality will be strictly observed and the identity of the study participants will be concealed in any report released to the public.

Although children cannot be tested for PCBs at URI as part of the comparison study, those who wish to have a child tested should contact Henderson at 874-4756, who will issue a letter of authorization stating that the University will pay for tests if the specimen is sent to the designated laboratory. The results will be sent to the health care provider who orders the test, and the occupational physician will also be available to answer parents’ questions.

In addition to the medical testing, work is under way to set up an epidemiological study associated with the closing and testing of the building. A world renowned team of environmental health experts, all affiliated with the Boston University School of Public Health, has overseen the protocols for the medical testing and the epidemiological study.

Compiling lists of workers in the Chafee building using University data bases and phone directories dating back to 1972, the team will be investigating whether the type and number of cancer cases among the occupants of Chafee represent an unusual rate of cancer as compared with the Rhode Island Cancer Registry.

Although the list is more than likely incomplete, there have been at least 11 known cancer diagnoses among occupants of the building in the past decade, with breast cancer predominant in the building.

Wyman said the review of the phone directories and registrar databases is well under way.

For Information: Linda Acciardo 401-874-2116, Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116

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