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Title: Health effects three years after potential exposure to the toxic contaminants of an electrical transformer fire

Abstract

A medical surveillance program has been established for 482 persons who were potentially exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dibenzo-p-dioxins, and dibenzofurans from an electrical transformer fire in a Binghamton, NY office building in 1981. Vital Record and Cancer Registry data, medical records, and mail questionnaires were used to assess mortality, symptomatology, cancer incidence, and reproductive events through 1984. The numbers of deaths, cancers, fetal deaths, and infants with low birth weight or congenital malformations were similar to those expected on the basis of age- and sex-specific rates for upstate New York and other comparison populations. Two suicides were observed compared with 0.31 expected, but the difference was not statistically significant. After adjustment for possible confounders, persons with the greatest degree of potential exposure were significantly more likely than those with less exposure to report unexplained weight loss (relative risk (RR) = 12.80), muscle pain (RR = 5.07), frequent coughing (RR = 4.14), skin color changes (RR = 3.49), and nervousness or sleep problems (RR = 3.19). The possibility of recall bias and the intervening effects of stress, however, weaken the conclusion that toxic chemicals caused the symptomatology. Exposure-related systemic disorders, e.g., chloracne or peripheral neuropathy, were not diagnosed by personalmore » physicians; however, some persons refused to release their medical records because of ongoing litigation. The findings are consistent with those of our earlier assessment.« less

Authors:
; ; ; ;  [1]
  1. (New York State Department of Health, Albany (USA))
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
5477545
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Archives of Environmental Health; (USA); Journal Volume: 44:4
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
63 RADIATION, THERMAL, AND OTHER ENVIRON. POLLUTANT EFFECTS ON LIVING ORGS. AND BIOL. MAT.; BENZOFURANS; TOXICITY; CHLORINATED AROMATIC HYDROCARBONS; DIOXIN; FIRES; INDOOR AIR POLLUTION; NEOPLASMS; NEW YORK; OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES; OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE; TRANSFORMERS; AIR POLLUTION; AROMATICS; DISEASES; ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT; EQUIPMENT; FEDERAL REGION II; FURANS; HALOGENATED AROMATIC HYDROCARBONS; HETEROCYCLIC COMPOUNDS; NORTH AMERICA; ORGANIC CHLORINE COMPOUNDS; ORGANIC COMPOUNDS; ORGANIC HALOGEN COMPOUNDS; ORGANIC OXYGEN COMPOUNDS; POLLUTION; USA; 560300* - Chemicals Metabolism & Toxicology

Citation Formats

Fitzgerald, E.F., Weinstein, A.L., Youngblood, L.G., Standfast, S.J., and Melius, J.M. Health effects three years after potential exposure to the toxic contaminants of an electrical transformer fire. United States: N. p., 1989. Web. doi:10.1080/00039896.1989.9935886.
Fitzgerald, E.F., Weinstein, A.L., Youngblood, L.G., Standfast, S.J., & Melius, J.M. Health effects three years after potential exposure to the toxic contaminants of an electrical transformer fire. United States. doi:10.1080/00039896.1989.9935886.
Fitzgerald, E.F., Weinstein, A.L., Youngblood, L.G., Standfast, S.J., and Melius, J.M. Sat . "Health effects three years after potential exposure to the toxic contaminants of an electrical transformer fire". United States. doi:10.1080/00039896.1989.9935886.
@article{osti_5477545,
title = {Health effects three years after potential exposure to the toxic contaminants of an electrical transformer fire},
author = {Fitzgerald, E.F. and Weinstein, A.L. and Youngblood, L.G. and Standfast, S.J. and Melius, J.M.},
abstractNote = {A medical surveillance program has been established for 482 persons who were potentially exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dibenzo-p-dioxins, and dibenzofurans from an electrical transformer fire in a Binghamton, NY office building in 1981. Vital Record and Cancer Registry data, medical records, and mail questionnaires were used to assess mortality, symptomatology, cancer incidence, and reproductive events through 1984. The numbers of deaths, cancers, fetal deaths, and infants with low birth weight or congenital malformations were similar to those expected on the basis of age- and sex-specific rates for upstate New York and other comparison populations. Two suicides were observed compared with 0.31 expected, but the difference was not statistically significant. After adjustment for possible confounders, persons with the greatest degree of potential exposure were significantly more likely than those with less exposure to report unexplained weight loss (relative risk (RR) = 12.80), muscle pain (RR = 5.07), frequent coughing (RR = 4.14), skin color changes (RR = 3.49), and nervousness or sleep problems (RR = 3.19). The possibility of recall bias and the intervening effects of stress, however, weaken the conclusion that toxic chemicals caused the symptomatology. Exposure-related systemic disorders, e.g., chloracne or peripheral neuropathy, were not diagnosed by personal physicians; however, some persons refused to release their medical records because of ongoing litigation. The findings are consistent with those of our earlier assessment.},
doi = {10.1080/00039896.1989.9935886},
journal = {Archives of Environmental Health; (USA)},
number = ,
volume = 44:4,
place = {United States},
year = {Sat Jul 01 00:00:00 EDT 1989},
month = {Sat Jul 01 00:00:00 EDT 1989}
}
  • A medical surveillance program has been established for 482 persons who were potentially exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dibenzo-p-dioxins, and dibenzo-furans from an electrical transformer fire in a Binghamton, NY office building in 1981. Blood samples were analyzed for serum concentrations of PCBs and for biochemical and hematologic parameters at the time of the fire and 9 to 12 mo later. Firefighters and individuals who were in the building for 25 hr or more were also asked about post-fire symptomatology and examined after 1 yr for disorders of the skin, eyes, liver, and neurologic system. The results indicated that reportedmore » exposure was positively related to mean serum PCB levels (p = .004). The means and individual values, however, were within the range reported by other studies of person with no unusual exposures. Significant correlations were observed between serum PCB concentrations and levels of liver enzymes and lipids, but mean levels of these biochemical parameters were not associated with reported exposure after adjustment for relevant covariables. Approximately one-half of those examined had skin lesions, but no cases of chloracne were detected, and there was no clinical evidence of any other exposure-related systemic disorder. The data suggest the exposure to contaminants from the building did not result in substantial absorption or cause any major short-term health effects.« less
  • Since the Bhopal incident, the public has placed pressure on regulatory agencies to set community exposure limits for the dozens of chemicals that may be released by manufacturing facilities. More or less objective limits can be established for the vast majority of these chemicals through the use of risk assessment. However, each step of the risk assessment process (i.e., hazard identification, dose-response assessment, exposure assessment, and risk characterization) contains a number of pitfalls that scientists need to avoid to ensure that valid limits are established. For example, in the hazard identification step there has been little discrimination among animal carcinogensmore » with respect to mechanism of action or the epidemiology experience. In the dose-response portion, rarely is the range of plausible estimated risks presented. Physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PB-PK) models should be used to understand the difference between the tissue doses and the administered dose, as well as the difference in target tissue concentrations of the toxicant between rodents and humans. Biologically-based models like the Moolgavkar-Knudson-Venzon (MKV) should be developed and used, when appropriate. The exposure assessment step can be significantly improved by using more sensitive and specific sampling and analytical methods, more accurate exposure parameters, and computer models that can account for complex environmental factors. Whenever possible, model predictions of exposure and uptake should be validated by biological monitoring of exposed persons (urine, blood, adipose) or by field measurements of plants, soil, fish, air, or water. In each portion of an assessment, the weight of evidence approach should be used to identify the most defensible value. 129 refs.« less
  • Following the explosion of a transformer, passersby, building occupants, and cleanup personnel had potential exposure to the transformer dielectric fluid containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). As part of a medical evaluation, blood serum was analyzed for PCBs, and the concentrations found were similar to that of a regional comparison group (median 4.0 ng/mL or parts per billion, range 1-10, n = 60). Some workers employed by the utility company that owned the transformer had potential exposure to PCBs in the past. This positive comparison group had significantly higher serum PCB concentrations, related to known direct contact (median 5.0, mean 14 ng/mL,more » 1-187, n = 25) or not (median 4.0, mean 11 ng/mL, 2-72, n = 17). Therefore, in this investigation, elevation of serum PCB levels could be related to past contact during work with transformers, but not to potential short-term exposure at the time of a transfer explosion.« less
  • A study was made of spermatogenesis in 15 dogs after discontinuing 3-year exposure to ..gamma..-radiation at a dose rate of 0.34 rad/day and 0.17 rad/day + 3 annual dose loads of 8 and 42 rad (cumulative doses of 375, 360 and 570 rad). Partial restoration of spermatogenesis was demonstrated. At the first stage (1 to 1.5 years) normalization was very intensive in dogs submitted to the maximum damage (cumulative dose 570 rad). Thereafter (3d to 6th years), there was slowing of recovery rate and the process of spermatogenesis became stabilized at a low level. There was less intensive recovery ofmore » dogs exposed to cumulative doses of 375 and 360 rad.« less
  • This study reports on the results of a 3-yr study conducted at a high elevation site in the southern Appalachians to determine if cloudwater and ozone (O[sub 3]) adversely affect the growth of red spruce seedlings (Picea rubens Sarg.). Field chambers were established at Whitetop Mountain, VA (elevation 1689 m), in 1988. Three replicate chamber treatments were constructed to produce the following treatments: (I) exclusion of clouds and O[sub 3] (COE), (II) ambient O[sub 3] with clouds removed (CE), and (III) exposure to both clouds and O[sub 3] (CC). Ambient air plots (AA) were also included in order to assessmore » possible chamber effects. After 3 yr, seedlings were impacted little by the reduction in pollution levels within the CE and COE chambers. No differences in seedling diameter growth were found for either seedling type, and height growth differences that were detected indicated more height growth in treatments with ambient O[sub 3] and cloudwater. Minimal biomass effects were also found. Increased nutrient leaching of needle Ca and Mg was observed in cloudwater treatments, but needle concentrations were not reduced to deficiency levels. Removal of both cloudwater and O[sub 3] (COE) did not enhance photosynthesis (Ps) rates for native or GSM seedlings. However, Ps of seedlings in which only cloudwater was removed (CE) was lower in 1-yr-old needles (C+1) of native and GSM seedlings, and in 2-yr-old needles (C+2) of native seedlings. These lower Ps rates of CE seedlings were correlated with lower needle N concentrations, indicating that cloudwater NO[sub 3][sup [minus]] and NH[sub 4][sup +] may have provided a fertilizer effect within AA and CC treatments. Respiration of current year needles of native seedlings was not affected by treatments; however, respiration was lower in older needles in which O[sub 3] and cloudwater were removed.« less