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Study of local air continues

By Sam Shawver,

Find out more

n For more information on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s local air quality study, copies of agency documents are available at:

Washington County Public Library, 615 Fifth St., Marietta.

Marietta College, 215 Fifth St., Marietta.

Washington County Public Library, Barlow Branch, Barlow.

n For information about ATSDR’s air monitoring in Washington County, contact Michelle Colledge or Youlanda Outin at 1-800-CDC-INFO. For health study questions, contact Stephanie Davis at the same number.

n To ask about accessibility to information pertaining to the ongoing project, e-mail Jennifer Fink at

Just how bad is the air we’re breathing?

That was the core question on people’s minds during a public meeting with members of the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at Marietta College Tuesday night.

“If you had family living here, what would you say to them?” Marietta resident Steve Parlin asked ATSDR epidemiologist Stephanie Davis.

“Personally I have to go by the evidence, and there are too many unknowns to make a determination,” Davis answered. “Until we have good scientific evidence, I would have to come down on the non-reactionary side.”

Davis and ATSDR environmental health scientist Michelle Colledge presented an update of an ongoing study of Washington County’s air quality to approximately 60 community members in the McDonough Center auditorium.

In 2001, at the request of U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, the ATSDR began an investigation of local air quality, focusing on emissions from industries located in the area of the former Union Carbide plant on Ohio 7, south of Marietta.

DeWine was prompted to contact the agency after hearing concerns from Neighbors for Clean Air and RECOVER, two local citizens groups concerned with air quality.

Within the last five years ATSDR, in cooperation with other federal, state and local environmental health agencies, has been monitoring and analyzing air samples to determine if a health study could be warranted for this area.

Data obtained from air monitors installed by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on Blue Knob Road and at the Washington County Career Center revealed several compounds in the air, but one was more prevalent than the others.

“Only manganese exceeded health-based guidelines, and we know that the manganese comes from the Eramet plant,” said Colledge.

She said the other facilities in the former Union Carbide complex, including Eveready Battery, Solvay Advance Polymers, Chevron-Phillips Chemical Co., and American Municipal Power Ohio, were not emitting high levels of the substance.

“The highest reported air release of manganese in the U.S. is in this community,” Davis said.

“Manganese is a neurotoxicant, and the main concern is its effect on the nervous system. Health studies have showed that older people may have mood and movement problems from exposure,” she said.

“But there’s a lot of things we don’t know about low level exposure to manganese over the long term,” Davis added.

For that reason, the ATSDR is considering a health study of the local community that could provide valuable information about the long-term effects on humans.

“We want to make it clear that the health study is only a proposal at this time,” Davis said. “We should know more in about a year.”

Although the agency is currently working on a possible draft health proposal, Davis said ATSDR wants to do some monitoring in more populated areas.

She said three new air monitors are being located in Harmar Village in Marietta, in Boaz, and at the Neale Elementary School in Vienna, W.Va.

The monitors will sample air for a year, and ATSDR will analyze the data. If it is determined that a health study is warranted, the agency will seek approval from Ohio and West Virginia, then move on to obtain the necessary funding.

If the study proceeds, ATSDR will select random members of the Washington and Wood county communities to participate in the health study.

Davis said the agency would also like to include a comparison Ohio community in the study where residents have not been exposed to manganese.

“It would take a number of years to complete this process, but as far as we know there has never been a health study in this area,” she said. “We think this is a step in the right direction. It might be too slow for some people, but we are making some progress.”

For more information about manganese and the air quality study, call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

Jennifer Fink, public health adviser with ATSDR’s Division of Health Studies in Atlanta, said the agency wants to keep the community informed about latest developments in the air quality investigations.

“We want your input, please don’t think that we have forgotten you,” she said. “Let us know if there’s anything we can do to make this information more accessible.”

Fink plans to place the information on a Web site in the near future, and Colledge said future updates may be provided to the community on a quarterly, instead of annual basis.

In the meantime Fink can be contacted about information accessibility by e-mail at

ATSDR, a division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, is working on the project in conjunction with the U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA, Ohio Health Department, Washington County and Marietta Health departments, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, and the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.





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