NIOSH Study: Can't link IBM chemical exposure to cancer

By Perry Russom

January 7, 2014 Updated Jan 8, 2014 at 8:30 AM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) A recent study on IBM said it's not possible to definitively say exposure to chemicals at the plant put workers at a higher risk for cancer.

The study was independently conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

They looked at the records of 34,494 employees from 1961 to 2001.

The study reports the total number of deaths caused from all causes and cancers combined were lower for IBM workers than would be expected in the general public.

However, the study says deaths from certain types of cancer were more frequent in some groups of workers than would be expected in the general public.

The cancers listed are rectal cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, mesothelioma, pleural cancer and cases of testicular cancer.

Wanda Hudak is the chairwoman of the Western Broome Environmental Stakeholders Coalition.

They're one of the groups that led the effort to make this study happen.

"If this study has done anything, it's going to give a document to anybody else that's thinking about starting a micro-electronic plant a guideline on what they have to be careful for," said Hudak.

NIOSH admits there were limitations on the report.

That's because of what they're calling a relatively young study population.

They say it may be too soon to see some work-related health effects.

"They wanted answers, we got some answers," said Hudak. "We're going to go for more as far as my board is concerned."

She said the stakeholders will push until all of their questions have been answered.

In a statement, IBM said the health, safety and wellness of their employees is and always has been their top priority and is integrated in every aspect of their operations.

In terms of the certain types of cancers that were more frequent, IBM said NIOSH did not look at family history, smoking tendencies and obesity.

A public meeting to discuss the results will be held at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 23 at the First United Methodist Church in Endicott.

The study was done at the request of the New York State Department of Health, Congressional representatives and community stakeholders.