Subject: Epidemiologist calls for birth defect study
Date: March 23, 1983


MDNEWS-March 23,1983- Epidemiologist calls for birth defect study

A "sharp increase" in the rate of birth defects among children born in Midland County from 1971-74 still should be investigated, a former U.S. Environmental Agency epidemiologist testified Wednesday.

Dr. Charles Poole, now a doctoral student at the Harvard School of Public health said he stopped developing a study proposal when he learned that Dow Chemical was going to conduct a similar study.
Since then, Poole testified, he has analyzed data from Dow's study and concluded that more research is needed. Poole was asked to give testimony before a subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee.

"My analysis of the Dow Chemical data supports a rationale for conducting a county-wide study to discover the reason for the so-far unexplained increase in recorded birth defects in Midland County during the years 1971-74, Poole testified.

"Statistical analyses I performed indicated a low likelihood that the increase was due to chance. Approximately 60 percent of the 113 congenital anomalies recorded in Midland County birth certificates during the four-year period exceeded expectation," he said.

Poole said his interest in the Midland County situation begain in March 1979 shortly after EPA announced an emergency suspension of some of the uses of the herbicide 2,4,5-T and Silvex made, by among others, Dow in Midland.

He said part of EPA's rationale for the suspension was a study of spontaneous abortions in Oregon where the herbicides had been sprayed. The authors believed they had found a seasonal link between the spraying and miscarriages several months later.

The data showed that from 1971-74 the Midland County birth defect rate was about 2.5 times the corresponding Michigan rate and the county's own rate for previous and subsequent years.

Then Poole testified, he obtained a copy of a May 1976 Daily News article in which then medical director H.C. Scharnweber was quoted as saying Dow would conduct its own study of the reproductive experiences of its employees.

"The advent of the Dow Chemical study was the principle reason for my decision to hold in abeyance the plans for the study i was developing," he said.

The Dow study begain in 1976 and released in 1980 consisted of interviews with 715 wives of Dow workers potentially exposed to dioxin in herbicide production areas.

The Dow study did not reveal significant differences between birth defects born to the wives of Dow herbicide employees and those born to women in a control group.

However, Poole said the Dow study did not specifically address the apparent defect increase from 1971-74.
He said the first step should be a computer analysis of Dow's data.

Source: Diane Hebert

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