Researchers are searching for the 766 Anniston residents who participated in a multi-year study that found a link between high exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls — PCBs — and rates of high blood pressure and diabetes. The goal of the search is to conduct a new study to determine how PCB levels in residents have changed over time and how that has affected their health, researchers say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Alabama at Birmingham are performing the research, which is an extension of a study conducted between 2005 and 2007. The researchers are requesting assistance only from the residents who participated in the previous study.
The research is set to start Jan. 21 at the Calhoun County Health Department and could last up to three months. Participants will be asked to give blood and fill out questionnaires, and will receive $100 gift cards for their support.
Dr. Stephen Mennemeyer, a principal investigator in the study and a professor of health at UAB, said the basic goal of the research is to re-study the participants of the original study.
"We want to see how much PCB levels might have changed and also look at some heavy metals in their bodies that we didn't get to study last time and also get more specific details on the PCB molecule," Mennemeyer said.
In the previous study, researchers found that participants had concentrations of PCBs in their systems that were two to three times higher than in the general U.S. population. The study also showed an association between higher PCB levels and diabetes and high blood pressure.
"We now want to see how that has changed over time," Mennemeyer said.
Researchers have studied Anniston due to the high levels of PCBs leaked into the city's air, ground and water for 40 years by the Monsanto Company, which produced the chemical.
Mennemeyer said results from the new study could one day lead to better treatment for people exposed to PCBs.
"It might lead to recommendations of modifying treatment of diabetes and blood pressure," Mennemeyer said.
David Baker, an Anniston resident and chairman of the Community Against Pollution, said he supported continued research on PCB contamination in the city. With the help of Baker and his organization, area residents successfully sued Monsanto over their health problems from PCB contamination for a multi-million-dollar settlement.
"The study done some years ago was a very good study," Baker said. "I'm glad they're going to do a follow-up study and try to find ways to help some of these folks."
Dr. Angela Martin, who runs an Anniston children's clinic created as part of the settlement from the Monsanto lawsuit, said she also supports more research, but would like more children included in the study.
"The original study did not follow up on the pediatric population," Martin said. "PCBs are neurotoxins that can impact the brain ... impact learning."
Mennemeyer noted that the previous study also revealed that younger Anniston residents born after the PCB leaks stopped had lower levels of the chemical in their systems.
To find out more about the study or to set up an appointment to participate, call 1-855-822-1778.