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Health study proposal debated again

May 27, 2011
Michael D. McElwain ( , The Review

EAST LIVERPOOL - The idea of a health study for East Liverpool-area residents was discussed again during an East Liverpool Board of Health meeting Thursday afternoon.

East End residents Alonzo Spencer and Mike Walton spoke on the issue with health Commissioner Jelayne Dray while board members listened.

Dray reiterated her belief that the health district should work under the guidance of state and federal health officials if and when a study is recommended. Spencer advocated using the work of Erin Haynes, an assistant professor and University of Cincinnati public health researcher.

During an informational meeting in March, Haynes said she is a "manganese researcher" and interested in comparing a study group in and around East Liverpool with a group currently under study in Marietta. She plans to compare and contrast the data with a control group in Cambridge.

Neither Dray nor any board of health member attended the March meeting organized by Spencer and Save Our County, Inc.

Dray said some clarification was needed about the board's stance saying the board was not against a health study but, "It was the board's decision to wait upon the decision of ATSDR as to their recommendation if a health study is warranted for this community."

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has been assisting other agencies with data and other information regarding several health concerns raised in and around East Liverpool.

Spencer, Walton and Dray agreed there is some confusion and misunderstandings by nearly everyone involved. Studies overlap, agency recommendations on one subject, like manganese levels, were confused with data on another, separate, subject like area cancer rates.

As for the health study itself, it was first raised on Feb. 12, 2010, when the East Liverpool Board of Education voted to formally ask "hair metal level tests" and "follow-up neuropsychological tests" be conducted on school-aged children within the district. The board passed the resolution by a vote of 3-2 and sent it to the health district.

Then-health district Commissioner Gary Ryan suggested that since the local health district is an entity of the state, the school board resolution should be passed on to the Ohio Department of Health.

"We don't have the money to pay for it (the study), and I doubt the East Liverpool Board of Education has the money to do it as well," Ryan noted at the time. "If there was any kind of study, the state would be the ones to be involved."

Later, Spencer gave the board of education some preliminary information on Haynes, and the board voted to turn over that information to the East Liverpool Health District.

On Thursday, Spencer and Dray discussed whether Dray spoke to Haynes and why the board chose to not attend Haynes' informational session.

"The East Liverpool Board of Health boycotted that meeting which came as another surprise for me," Spencer said.

Dray indicated that Haynes never contacted her about a formal presentation on the topic, and Dray added that she would welcome a meeting with Haynes.

Spencer pressed Dray about missed telephone calls and a possible communication breakdown with Haynes.

Dray again said she had an open door policy and would welcome a discussion with anyone interested in the health conditions in and around East Liverpool.

However, Dray repeated again, as of the current time, the ATSDR "does not recommend a health study."

Dray said she would support an academician interested in conducting a study if she could first: review the purpose of the study, find out the data collection methods, know what the expected outcomes re for the study, who the study participants were and knew the study's design.

Spencer noted that those questions are proper and should be directed toward Haynes.

Dray said she had several concerns about the study including Haynes' proposal to pay study participants.

By the end of the discussion, Mayor Jim Swoger, who heads up health board meetings, suggested Dray try to contact Haynes one more time and check into some of the details.

"We are all in this together," Spencer said at the end of the meting. "We are not an enemy," her told the board, but cautioned, "Ignoring it is not going to make it go away."



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