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NIOSH Presents IBM Health Study

ENDICOTT--It was a five year study of over 34,000 IBM workers pushed for by local Legislators and residents to determine if chemicals at the Endicott facility led to illness.

At a public meeting Thursday evening, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health researches said the results presented findings of interest but were inconclusive due to employee data limitations.

According to researchers, the study revealed the total numbers of deaths from all causes and all cancers combined were lower among the IBM workers in the study than what would be expected.  However deaths from some types of cancers were more frequent.

The study revealed deaths from leukemia were more common  in employees who worked in building 18 with more potential exposure to TCE.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo pushed for the study.  She says it's a relief to see no big trend of bad health outcomes, however has concerns with the link of illness to TCE exposure.

"This study does cause some concerns which makes me even more committed to trying to get the Department of Health to lower their mitigation standards for TCE," said Lupardo.

NIOSH researchers say they cannot tell from this study whether TCE caused cancer among former workers but that it suggests workers with more exposure to TCE may be more likely to die from kidney cancer and leukemia and may be more likely to be diagnosed with testicular cancer.

NIOSH researchers say study limitations include missing records, especially those after 1969 where exposures were likely higher. 

Former IBM employee Glenn Williams says two of his family members who worked at IBM for over 30 years both died of cancer and says its hard to know the results are inconclusive.

"I say that my first reaction was that IBM is a computer company that kept records back into the holocaust and why they don't have more records, I don't know," said Williams.

NIOSH researchers say the study also lacked data on smoking and other nonoccupational hazards. They warn the study population is still young and results could change as the population ages.

They are still awaiting the results of birth defects in children of former IBM worker. It is expected to be completed this year.


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