Some not satisfied with IBM health study

By Erika Mahoney

January 24, 2014 Updated Jan 24, 2014 at 1:27 AM EDT

Endicott, NY (WBNG Binghamton) It's been a few weeks since the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released their findings on whether working at IBM put people at a higher risk for serious illnesses like cancer.

But the possible relationship between IBM workers and elevated levels of disease is a discussion that's been considered for decades.

On Thursday night, NIOSH study publishers presented their long-awaited findings to the public.

The study concluded that it's not possible to determine if working at IBM put workers at elevated risks.

"I think we’re all learning from NIOSH and research that there were substantially fewer deaths from all diseases when you compare the IBM population in Endicott and the general population," said IBM spokesman Todd Martin. "Specifically, there were 33 percent fewer deaths when you compare the IBM Endicott population to the general population."

But others are still wondering "what if."

"My father worked here for 37 years and my father in law worked here for 33 years and both of them died of cancer," former IBM employee Glenn Williams said. "I don't know if that relates to IBM for sure. How do you prove it?"

Another former IBM employee who once lived near the site said he's convinced someone is hiding the truth.

"You know it seems kinda ironic you go to the fox and he has feathers stuck out of his mouth and there is trouble in the hen house and he goes, 'Hey you got nothing to worry about...here are the records'," Wayne Richardson said.

Richardson not only believes former employees died from working with the chemicals at IBM, but neighbors died -- or suffered sicknesses -- as a result of the chemical plume that continues to be remediated.

And like another woman in the audience, he's not convinced the process of the study is sound.

"I feel like this related specifically to the employees, it had nothing to do with the communities where the TCE was dropped," said Toni Sherling, who lives near the site. "My husband was a two-time cancer survivor. He wasn't included in the survey because he survived."

Toni lost her son last year to cancer. Cory lived in her house for six years, and she said it doesn't added up.

"I wear him close to me all the time," Toni said pointing to a pin with the word "Cory" on it. "Like I said, he was only 40 years old, he was a married man, he had three children and he had his own business."

Sherling is asking for additional studies.

NIOSH is currently studying whether the children of former IBM employees may have a higher risk of birth defects.