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August 24, 1995

Research center to study chemically related illness opens Aug. 31 at Harborview Hospital in Seattle

TUMWATER - A center that will combine research, education and clinical care for people exposed to chemicals will open Aug. 31 at Harborview Hospital in Seattle.

The Center of Excellence for Chemically Related Illness is the result of 1994 legislation. The Department of Labor & Industries, with the participation of the Department of Health, has contracted with the University of Washington's Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program at Harborview to establish and operate the center.

The Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program, founded in 1981, is a joint program of the Department of Medicine and the Department of Environmental Health of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

Chemically related illness, often referred to as CRI, refers to a wide variety of health problems caused by exposure to environmental chemicals.

The center will be affiliated with Occupational Medicine Associates in Spokane and the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic in Toppenish to provide service throughout the state. Through funding provided by Labor & Industries, the center will equip a mobile laboratory to provide on-site medical and environmental evaluations.

The center's main goals are to:

  • Provide the best possible treatment for patients with CRI.
  • Create a research base for medical issues involving chemical exposure.
  • Improve public understanding about CRI through educational programs.

Labor & Industries has taken a leading role among the nation's workers' compensation programs in research on CRI. A special claims unit reviews all claims associated with chemical exposures in the workplace.

From 1994 to mid-1995, Labor & Industries received about 3,600 claims for chemically related illness. As with any claim filed by an injured worker in Washington, sufficient medical evidence is necessary for approval of benefits, and the exposure must have occurred at the workplace.

Labor & Industries will refer workers with possible chemically related illnesses to the center. Patients from the general community also will be welcome.

For more information, call:

Lindsay Shuster, RN, Labor & Industries, (360) 902-9105.

Dr. Jim White, Department of Health, 360-753-2396.

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