Fort Detrick's continuing commitment to public health
Fort Detrick has asked the National Academy of Sciences, Board on Environmental Studies & Toxicology, to conduct a peer review of key studies concerning environmental contamination at Fort Detrick and potential public health effects.
Due to Frederick resident concerns, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene along with the Frederick County Health Department conducted a preliminary statistical analysis of cancer cases. To date, the preliminary statistical analysis performed does not indicate that there are any high cancer rates around Fort Detrick.
As part of Fort Detrick's continuing commitment to public health Col. Judith Robinson, Fort Detrick Garrison commander hopes to address environmental concerns regarding the installation.
The first meeting of the National Research Council (committee to review studies of possible toxic effects from the past environmental contamination at Fort Detrick) was conducted May 16 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Frederick, Md.
BEST will review three reports based on independent studies by public health agencies:
- The first report is the December 2009 groundwater report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry;
- The second report is the October 2010 cancer investigation interim progress report by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene;
- The third report is the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene final cancer investigation report, tentatively due later this year.
The committee's review will help determine if the studies are scientifically and methodologically rigorous, robust, and sufficient enough to address concerns about illnesses that might have resulted from past exposures to groundwater contaminants.
"By taking these extra steps, we hope to either confirm conclusions or identify gaps for future research. If research gaps are apparent, we are looking for recommended actions and we will address them," said Robinson.
The requested review of these reports shall address and discuss the following questions and points:
- Are the reports scientifically sound?
- Do the reports exhibit high quality?
- Identify any data gaps.
- Identify any limitations.
- Are the conclusions valid?
- Are the assumptions valid/reasonable?
- Assuming no additional data or data sources are available, identify whether any evidence-based conclusions could be reached on groundwater exposures and any resultant health risks, either currently or prior to 1992.
- Assuming no additional data or data sources are available, what further studies would be recommended, if any?
- Identify effective communication strategies for communicating the results of the review to the stakeholders and for addressing their health concerns; the focus on cancer.
The requested review of the reports shall make recommendations as to specific actions to address deficiencies as identified above.
During the meeting, Bob Craig, Fort Detrick U.S. Army Garrison chief of environmental management office gave an installation restoration program overview.
Craig talked about the current groundwater work plan and discussed the collaboration between MDE and EPA.
Another initiative that the Fort Detrick's environmental office has started is the Archival Search Project. Craig emphasized that since present personnel from his office where not here in the 40s, 50s, 60s, that the project would include reviewing records and interviewing people. These interviews would be done by another agency to make sure we get objective results.
Both Robinson and Craig were available for questions by the NRC panel.
The 2nd meeting is scheduled June 2.