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Increased suicide rate with possible link to nearby industry chemicals in second N.C. community

CHAPEL HILL -- Sustained elevation of the suicide rate in a North Carolina county may be linked to releases of hydrogen sulfide and other airborne chemicals from a nearby paper mill and possibly other industrial sites, a new study led by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill psychiatrist indicates. The findings are being presented today (Nov. 7) to the 18th Annual U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress in Las Vegas.

This is the second study to propose a possible link between increased suicide rates in a North Carolina community and chemical exposures from nearby industry. Many of the same authors of the new research previously presented a study suggesting a possible link between an increased suicide rate in a community in Salisbury and chronic low-level exposure to hydrogen sulfide and other potential neurotoxins released from nearby asphalt plants and petroleum remediation sites.

From 1994 through 2003, the suicide rate in two Salisbury neighborhoods was found to be 38.4 per 100,000 individuals a year, roughly three times the statewide average. That study was presented to the 17th Annual U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress in 2004 and at the National Institute of Mental Health New Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit meeting in June 2005.

Pointing to their recent analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current study's authors said the suicide rate in another N.C. area rural Haywood County nearly doubled from an age-adjusted rate of 11.8 per 100,000 residents for 1990-1996 to about 21.1 per 100,000 residents for 1997-2002.

The county's age-adjusted suicide rate has now remained elevated since 1997, peaking at 29.7 per 100,000 in 2000. In contrast, the average age-adjusted suicide rate for North Carolina for 1997-2001 was about 11.4 per 100,000 residents per year. Haywood ranked 46th out of North Carolina's 100 counties for average age-adjusted suicide rate for 1979-1996, but the count
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Contact: L.H. Lang
llang@med.unc.edu
919-843-9687
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
7-Nov-2005


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