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UC study to check manganese

By Connie Cartmell


n Eramet Marietta Inc. is the only manganese refinery in the United States or Canada.

Source: Erin Haynes, assistant professor, University of Cincinnati, environmental health.

n Manganese is a grayish-white, metallic chemical element, usually hard and brittle, which rusts like iron but is not magnetic. It is used in the manufacture of alloys of iron, aluminum, and copper.

n To participate in a manganese study:

Neighbors for Clean Air, 374-0975 or 513-558-5427.

Neighbors of Eramet Marietta Inc., Ohio 7 south, have an opportunity to find out how much manganese is in their bodies through a new study by environmental health researchers at the University of Cincinnati.

The pilot program, which begins at the end of this month, is expected to be complete within two months, said Erin Haynes, lead researcher and assistant professor in environmental health at UC.

It’s aimed first at looking at a small group of people —- of all ages — who live close to Eramet.

Initially, 25 participants from Marietta are being sought for the study, which will include looking at lead and chromium levels too (since they were also detected in air here).

Half the participants will come from homes within three miles of Eramet, one quarter from four to six miles away and the remaining quarter from seven to nine miles.

Each study participant receives $50.

“High exposures of manganese have been found in the air in Marietta. Now we want to know what’s in humans,” Haynes said. “We believe the data we collect should warrant further study.”

Participants who have higher blood levels of manganese will be invited to UC for further study, she said.

Funding for the $16,000 to $18,000 exploratory study comes from the Center for Environmental Genetics at UC.

Manganese is a heavy, metallic chemical element refined at Eramet. This is the only refinery for the substance, which is used in the manufacture of alloys of iron, aluminum and copper - in the U.S. or Canada. The raw material for the process comes from Africa, Haynes said.

Researchers are looking for any health affects to humans from concentrations of manganese in the body.

Manganese, in trace levels, is essential to human beings but researchers are not certain at what level adverse affects begin to surface.

“Symptoms are similar to Parkinson’s Disease with movement and motor disorders, tremors, mood swings, depression, anxiety,” Haynes said.

The study will include both biological and environmental sampling.

Blood and hair samples will be taken, along with samples of dust, soil, and paint from the homes of study participants.

There have been few actual national studies.

“We know that manganese accumulates in the brain,” she said. “We are not sure of genetic mechanisms yet.”

Ruth Breech, Southern Ohio Program Director with Ohio Citizen Action, is working locally with Neighbors for Clean Air, to test local air for contaminants.

“Our campaign with Eramet is to get them to clean up and reduce emissions,” Breech said. “We know it’s in the community.”

University of Cincinnati gained national attention with its research in lead poisoning.

“Lead and manganese have similar health affects,” Breech said.


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