Tamaqua Mayor Chris Morrison, Chairman of the Tri-County Polycythemia Community Advisory Committee (CAC), announced Wednesday that Equity Environmental Engineering (EEE) has been chosen by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to conduct a study of possible exposure of area residents to contaminants in air and drinking water.

"We are pleased that ATSDR and CDC have funded this study in response to public concerns about high cancer rates and the many sources of contamination in our area.," said Morrison.

According to Morrison, EEE investigators will meet with members of the CAC and tour the area on Oct. 28.

"Thanks to the hard work of community members we now have a large number of studies to get to the bottom of the cancer cluster in our area," Morrison said.

U.S Senator Arlen Specter obtained about $8 million in federal funds for the research programs. On Sept. 22, researchers and government officials were on hand to discuss the major studies now underway; studies include:

Ÿ An epidemiological study by Drexel University designed to determine what factors that PV/MPD patients have in common and what factors separate those with the illnesses and those without.

Ÿ A study by the University of Pittsburgh (School of Public Health) to obtain an accurate and updated account of the number/incidence of PV/MPD cases in the tri-county area.

Ÿ A second study by University of Pittsburg scientists to investigate the incidence of PV/MPD in a four-county area of coal country in southwestern Pennsylvania with similar geography and demographics, coal burning plants and ash disposal sites.

Ÿ Laboratory studies by Dr. Ronald Hoffman (a foremost expert on PV) to determine more on the genetic changes that precipitate the onset of JAK-2 mutations and PV disease. One study will subject blood cells to various contaminants that have been found in the tri-county area.

Ÿ An analysis of thousands of blood samples and data from U.S. residents obtained from the CDC's NHANES program, one of the largest randomized collections of samples and associated data in existence. The analysis will be used to estimate the frequency of PV, JAK-2 across the country and look for possible correlations with factors such as work history, diet and contaminant levels in blood.