Public health expert: IBM study is worldwide issue

By Perry Russom

January 8, 2014 Updated Jan 8, 2014 at 7:22 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Just days after the IBM study was released, experts continue to analyze the results.

The study couldn't definitively say exposure to chemicals at the plant put workers at a higher risk for cancer.

Dr. Richard Clapp, a public health professor from Boston University, said he expected National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety would find something to grab onto in the study and believes they did.

"This Endicott situation is pretty much looking at what's happening to workers in the lower tier in New York and maybe Pennsylvania near by, but it's a global issue," said Clapp.

Clapp said the question has been whether there are unusual patterns at the plant that show the effects of exposure.

TCE and PCE were two chemicals he mentioned.

Both of those chemicals were used at the plant to clean parts.

TCE is known as a direct link to causing cancer, while PCE is known as a probable cause for cancer.

Clapp said it would be interesting to know what the report would look like with records farther back than 30 years.

"The records are not available so we will not be able to do that study, but it would have been interesting to do look back earlier when less careful exposure or more dangerous chemicals were being used," said Clapp. "But that's not possible with the records that were available for this study."

Western Broome Environmental Stakeholders Coalition Wanda Hudak says the next step is to look at those specific cancers mentioned in the study.

"Wanda is right," said Clapp. "That's the next step and I think the health department is in a position to do that actually because of the cancer registry. They can monitor what people are dying at an increased rate in the community from, say ALS."

Even though the study is based in Endicott, Clapp said it will receive worldwide attention.

Other technology companies, like Samsung, are using the same processes as IBM.

"There's same processes, circuit board manufacturing, semi-conductor manufacturing going on in Asia and in the UK," said Clapp.