I wanted to share this with all of you!!! PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE!!! This article appeared in my hometown paper, The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Mass.) on February 24, 2002. I was born and raised in Pittsfield, and the contaminated locations mentioned in the story are areas I and my friends played in when we were kids. We came home covered with mud and dirt from playing in these areas, and many of my aunts and uncles worked at the G.E. plant for years back in the 40's through the 60's. MANY in my family (aunts, uncles, cousins, and, last March, my own sister, of colon cancer) have DIED of CANCER and numerous other diseases and conditions, WHICH I AM CONVINCED ARE DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE CONTAMINATED CITY OF PITTSFIELD! ARE YOU LIVING IN AN AREA THAT IS CONTAMINATED??? DID YOU GROW UP IN A CONTAMINATED AREA??? Here's the article, cut-and-pasted exactly as it appeared: February 24, 2002 Berkshire Eagle Staff PITTSFIELD -- In a continuing effort to find answers to some of the community's lingering questions about the effects of PCBs on human health, an environmental group Friday convened a panel of academicians and scientists to explain both what they know and don't know about the toxin. General Electric used PCBs for decades at its Pittsfield plant until the federal government banned the chemical in 1977. Believed to cause cancer in humans, PCBs have been found in the Housatonic River, the GE plant, in the yards of more than 200 homes around the city and in the playground of the Allendale Elementary School. University of Albany professor David Carpenter speaks at the PCB health forum at the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield on Friday night. Photo: Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff While the contamination is now the subject of a massive cleanup effort, the presence of PCBs so close to children and residents has for years generated fears of an increased risk of a host of ailments, ranging from attention deficit disorder in children to bladder cancer in adults, but there have been few concrete answers available from the state or federal government. Friday's five-member panel made clear that part of the problem is a simple lack of study being done on the relationship between PCBs and health. There also appears to be little driving interest to conduct further research since studies show that PCB levels in humans are declining, indicating that the health risk is also probably abating. For residents who learned in recent years that their backyards had been filled with PCB-contaminated soil or that they had lived next to a plant that is heavily contaminated, the health concerns are real. Brimming with anecdotes of childhood skin rashes, family members who died of cancer or pets that died at surprisingly young ages, many come to meetings seeking answers from the host of state and federal agencies involved in the cleanup. "We know that the concerns that have been brought to the meetings are anecdotal in nature. We, as a citizens group, don't know whether or not the concerns that people bring to the meetings are real, or are they in the norm? That has been an issue. We don't really know," said Timothy Gray, executive director of the Housatonic River Initiative, which sponsored Friday's panel discussion. The panel, chaired by David M. Gute of Tufts University, hopes to conclude its work in approximately two months and prepare a "white paper" that Gute said would be "a synthesis and set of recommendations of possible human-health studies that would be scientifically appropriate as well as, to the extent possible, addressing concerns of interest to you in the community." Among the panelists was David Carpenter, a professor at the University of Albany (N.Y.) who has been testing a hypothesis that PCBs can become airborne and inhaled. If true, it would contradict the predominant belief that the primary pathway for human absorption of PCBs is through eating fish. Carpenter took samples of air in Pittsfield homes and found airborne PCBs in many of them. He compared that data to the PCB blood levels of 21 residents. However, his data pool was too small and the study too short-lived for him to reach any definitive conclusions, other than that his hypothesis showed promise. But his efforts to get grant funding to pay for further study were unsuccessful. "I want to make clear that this is only a hypothesis, albeit, I think, a hypothesis that desperately needs greater attention," Carpenter said. Bladder cancer data Richard Clapp, now of Boston University, did early work with the state Department of Public Health's cancer registry. Information from 1982 to 1985 showed that Pittsfield "stood out" from the rest of the state in the incidence of bladder cancer, particularly in working-age men, many of whom worked at the GE plant. But the research and interviews in Pittsfield failed to reveal any solid evidence of a particular cause of the bladder cancer, and when funding dried up, the study ended. In a separate study, Clapp and HRI distributed a questionnaire asking residents a number of questions related to health. Data from those forms found that people had an incidence of skin rash -- a known result of PCB exposure -- that was four times the national average in men under 45, five times the average in women under 45, six times the average in men aged 45 to 64, and five times the average in women 45 to 64. But much of the work was being done by a college student studying statistics who is no longer available to crunch the numbers. Further study hasn't been done, again largely because of a lack of funding. This Friday, HRI is sponsoring another panel discussion that will examine alternative technologies for the destruction of PCBs. The methods discussed will cover treatments that destroy PCBs, which typically last hundreds of years, eliminating them as a possible threat to health and the environment. Larry G.