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April 21, 1999

Research results are focus of May 7 conference
Six studies deal with chemically related illness, multiple chemical sensitivity

TUMWATER -- Results of six studies on chemically related illnesses will be presented May 7 at a conference sponsored by the state Department of Labor & Industries.

The conference, "Chemicals, the Environment and Disease," begins at 7:30 a.m. May 7 at the Marriott Hotel in Sea-Tac. Co-sponsors include the University of Washington School of Medicine, University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine, and the Western Washington Area Health Education Center. There is a registration fee.

The 1994 Washington Legislature appropriated $1.5 million to Labor & Industries to conduct research on chemically related illnesses, including multiple chemical sensitivity.

Four studies are on chemically related illness. Two other projects looked for ways to test for multiple chemical sensitivity, or MCS.

Highlights of the six studies are:

  • Respiratory effects of volatile organic compounds. Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that evaporate into the atmosphere at room temperatures. They were studied to test the idea that they may be linked to asthma and building-related illnesses.

Principal investigator: Dr. Scott Barnhart, University of Washington.

  • Respiratory health among sawmill workers. This study focused on the potential health effects of exposures to sawmill dust from three tree species in the Northwest - balsam, spruce and pine.

Principal investigator: Dr. Paul Demers, University of British Columbia.

  • Exposure assessment and health effects in hard metal tool machining. This study focused on the degree to which workers exposed to hard metal
    are at risk for developing asthma or hard-metal lung disease. Hard metals
    generally are made of tungsten and small amounts of other metals and are held together by cobalt.

Principal investigator: Dr. Noah Seixas, University of Washington.

  • Pilot application of field kit-based cholinesterase monitoring of
    pesticide handlers in Washington state. This research tested use of a field kit to measure cholinesterase in agricultural workers exposed to pesticides. The study tested the field kit's value in preventing toxic exposure. Cholinesterase is an enzyme essential for the normal function of a human's nervous system.

Principal investigator: Dr. Matthew Keifer, University of Washington.

  • SPECT imaging of the brain. This research focuses on developing an
    objective test to evaluate patients with suspected multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome. SPECT stands for single-photon emission computed tomography, which involves the injection of low-level radioactive fluid into the brain.

Principal investigator: Dr. Howard Hu, Brigham & Women's Hospital.

  • Reliability and reproducibility of immune and lymphocyte tests in MCS
    patients.
    This research focuses on the validity of tests of immune systems in humans for MCS.

Principal investigator: Dr. Joseph Margolick, Johns Hopkins University.

Other featured speakers at the conference include:

  • Kay Teschke, associate professor, Department of Healthcare and Epidemiology Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia.
  • Dr. Howard Kipen, associate professor, Rutgers University.
  • Dr. Gary Franklin, medical director, Department of Labor & Industries.
  • Dr. Hal Stockbridge, associate medical director, Department of Labor & Industries.
  • Dr. Joel Kaufman, associate medical director, University of Washington.

For more information about the conference:

Western Washington Area Health Education Center
Telephone: 206-441-7137
Fax: 206-441-7158
E-mail: wwahec@u.washington.edu

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