Southeast Kansas Hazardous Waste Health Study
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $650,000 to the University of Kansas to study possible health implications of four commercial hazardous waste burners operating in southeast Kansas. The study is being conducted by the university's Center for Environmental and Occupational Health and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
The study is in response to health concerns raised by residents of the area in recent years. Many southeast Kansas residents have expressed concerns about health problems in their communities they believe may be related to the operation of hazardous waste burners in their communities. The study investigators began their work by performing preliminary investigations and holding a series of public meetings in southeast Kansas to encourage communities to participate in the design of the study.
Communities involved in the projected 2-1/2-year study are Chanute, Coffeyville, Fredonia and Independence. Participation by citizens in the community, local physicians, and health officials will be essential to the success of this study. The hazardous waste burners in the southeast Kansas area are operated by Ash Grove Cement Company at Chanute, Aptus/Laidlaw at Coffeyville, Lafarge Corporation at Fredonia and Heartland Cement Company at Independence.
The study will evaluate the health implications, in terms of respiratory health and cancer, of existing environmental data and identify environmental data gaps that need to be addressed. Ambient air samples will be collected in and around the study communities and a control community for one year.
The preliminary work plan calls for randomly chosen volunteers from the study and control communities to complete health questionnaires for the respiratory part of the study. The survey size will be decided during stakeholder and community meetings in the first year of the study.
The questionnaires will be used to help select a sample group of about 50 people from each study and control community. Complete medical histories will be taken from each of the volunteers, including brief physical examinations and pulmonary function testing, at the end of the study's first year and again at the end of the second year.
Data on emergency room visits for acute respiratory illness will be collected from hospitals in the study and control communities and reviewed monthly during the second year of the study. In the final phase of the study -- Year 3 -- medical data and environmental data will be examined for cause-and-effect relationships.
The cancer part of the study will build upon an earlier epidemiological study of pediatric cancers in the area performed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).
The follow-on study will evaluate cancer incidence and mortality rates in the study and control areas. Data for this portion of the study will be abstracted from the vital records section of KDHE's Kansas Cancer Registry and the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Result program.
The cancer incidence and mortality rates of the study and control counties will be examined in relation to environmental data on residents' exposure to toxic agents.
Investigators also will review literature on these toxic agents to identify their levels of risk for causing cancer in humans.