Patterns Found in Amoco Cancer

Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
April 17, 1998

CHICAGO (AP) -- Medical researchers looking into a puzzling outbreak of brain tumors at an Amoco Corp. research center say they have made an important step towards finding the cause of the problem.

Since 1989, 17 cases of head tumors have turned up among research and development workers at Amoco's Naperville research center outside Chicago. Seven of the victims have been diagnosed with the deadly form of brain tumor called glioma, all of them men, even though more than a third of the employees in the complex are women. Four of the glioma patients have died.

At least five of the men worked in Building 503. Most worked on the building's third floor, and three were in one laboratory. All seven worked in similar chemical research projects, although mostly not in the same place or at the same time. That limits the scope of the investigation to about 34 projects among the thousands conducted at the center in the past 28 years.

"We're starting to see some patterns emerge," Michael S. Wells, Amoco's manager of epidemiology, told the Chicago Tribune.

All seven men diagnosed with gliomas worked in polymer research and catalyst development, Wells said. At least two overlapped on 34 projects; three of the men worked on one project. But because all worked on the same general subject area, they probably used many of the same materials -- a wide range of metals.

"We know that some metals are neurotoxins," Wells said, adding none of the metals in these projects have been linked to brain tumors.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have been hired by Amoco to solve the mystery. They determined that seven cases would be within a normal range of probability for the 8,000 people who have worked at the complex, but that it is abnormal for so many people to be affected in part of one building.

"That's about seven times higher than what you'd expect," Wells said.

Material presented on this home page constitutes opinion of the author.
Copyright © 1998 Steven J. Milloy. All rights reserved. Site developed and hosted by WestLake Solutions, Inc.