Thursday, September 01, 2005

More on the Flawed MDCH Study

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jenée L. Velasquez, CEO
August 22, 2005 Midland Tomorrow, (989) 839-0340

State’s Exposure Report a Disservice;
Flawed Results Hurt Community

MIDLAND, Mich. –– The recent Public Health Consultation draft by the Michigan Department of Community Health is misleading and has the potential to do great harm to the entire Tittabawassee region with inaccurate information, Midland officials said today.

“The release of this so-called report was an absolute disservice to our community,” said Jenée L. Velasquez, CEO of Midland Tomorrow, a private, non-profit economic development corporation. “They are using inaccurate information to mislead the public with averages based on a sample of just 20 people.”

MDCH releases the “Pilot Exposure Investigation” in July. It was purportedly designed to provide information on dioxin levels for a limited number of residents of the Tittabawassee River flood plain. Twenty adults living on property within the flood plain allowed MDCH to take samples of their blood, soil from their yards, and dust from inside their homes.

“This report is misleading at best,” Velasquez said. “We applaud any effort to retrieve information, but it should be done in context and with the use of sound science. MDCH has failed to apply that standard, and as a result is characterizing an entire region based on findings that are far too narrow –– and, as it turns out, fall within established ranges anyway.”

According to the MDCH report, blood total dioxin equivalent (TEQ) levels in five of the 20 participants were higher than what might be expected in 90 percent of people of the same age with no known exposure to dioxins beyond background. But all 20 samples fell between the range of the highest and lowest dioxin levels for people with no known exposure beyond background. And the sample size is too small to draw conclusions about the rest of the population in the Tittabawassee River region, the report said.

“This report simply cannot be considered valid because of the limited number of participants, the use of averages and generally poor scientific technique,” Velasquez said. “The questionnaire was flawed, the sample biased, and no adjustment was made for body mass index.”
Other studies are being conducted and should be reviewed by the state before decisions are made that could ultimately affect an entire region, Velasquez added.

University of Michigan scientists are conducting a comprehensive study of human exposure to dioxins in the Midland-Saginaw area. The purpose of U of M’s scientific study is to determine whether dioxins in the environment are ending up in the bodies of residents of the Tittibawassee River basin, and whether these residents have higher levels of dioxins in their blood than persons living in other parts of Michigan.

The U of M study is expected to include samples from about 525 residents in Saginaw and Midland counties and 175 in Jackson and Calhoun counties.
“The state’s sensationalized focus on this region and its willingness to engage in less than sound science is jeopardizing the area’s vitality,” Velasquez said. “Our region is losing jobs, stigmatizing our region and this isn’t helping us attract investment or retain talent. The state must use sound science before arbitrarily making decisions that will have a negative impact on the entire area. A more thorough review is required before the state sounds an economic death knell for such large swaths of land.”
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