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DHS news release

Nov. 26, 2004

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180

Technical contact: Michael Heumann (503) 731-4025

 

Congress authorizes $100,000 to begin health study among former workers at View-Master plant


Oregon will receive $100,000 in federal funds to conduct research into the health effects of employees who were exposed to high concentrations of trichloroethylene (TCE) while working at the former View-Master factory in Beaverton, public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) said Wednesday.

 

The funds are part of the fiscal year 2005 omnibus appropriations bill that the president is expected to sign soon. Rep. David Wu of Oregon sponsored the bill that resulted in the appropriation, with support from Oregon Senators Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden.

 

"The research that will be able to be conducted because of these funds is important in our continuing efforts on behalf of the View-Master employees," said Congressman Wu. "This research is vital for us to better understand the impacts and effects of TCE."

 

According to research reports, employees were exposed to TCE through drinking water from an onsite well between the mid-1960s until the plant closed in 1998. TCE is a degreasing agent that is classified as a probable human carcinogen and was used at the plant for more than 20 years, according to Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist in DHS.

 

In 2003, DHS released a preliminary report showing that the proportions of deaths among View-Master workers were 2.94 times greater for kidney cancer and 2.16 times greater for pancreatic cancer than in the general population.

 

"Our preliminary analysis found that the View-Master site posed a public health hazard and that further study was needed, in order to fully assess the impact of TCE exposure on these workers," Kohn said. "Now we can start that process."

 

Kohn said a full environmental assessment should be conducted into the TCE contamination in the well water to evaluate adverse health and reproductive outcomes among former workers and their offspring. DHS is currently finalizing a feasibility report that will determine how best to design a health study to accomplish these goals.

 

"Former employees and their families are clamoring for answers," Kohn said. "We need to provide them with accurate, scientific information.

 

Prior research on the View-Master site was conducted by DHS under a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Complete information is on the DHS public health Web site.