Primary biliary cirrhosis more prevalent around toxic waste sites in NYC

According to a new study, exposure to toxins from hazardous waste sites may be a significant risk factor for developing primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Published in the March 2006 issue of Hepatology, researchers found significant clusters of the disease near Superfund toxic waste sites (SFS) and that the majority of patients in New York City who need liver transplants because of PBC, reside near SFS. Hepatology is published on behalf of the society by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and is available online via Wiley InterScience at http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/hepatology.

PBC is an uncommon liver disease of unknown cause, though it reportedly appears in geographic clusters. Researchers, led by Aftab Ala, M.D. of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, examined the prevalence and potential clustering of PBC near New York City's most toxic waste sites, which are state-designated SFS.

The researchers collected zip code data on 172 patients in New York City in need of orthotopic liver transplant (OLT) between 1995 and 2003 due to either PBC or primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). They compared the patients' zip codes to zip codes of known SFS in the city. Of the city's 174 zip codes, 89 included or bordered SFS and 85 did not.

The researchers then calculated the expected prevalence of PBC-OLT and PSC-OLT, adjusting for demographic characteristics. They compared the mean standardized prevalence ratios in zip codes containing or adjacent to a SFS to the remaining zip codes. Lastly, they utilized SaTScan, a statistical software package, to detect specific clusters.

"The prevalence ratio of PBC-OLT, not PSC-OLT, was significantly higher in zip codes containing or adjacent to SFS," the authors report. The standardized prevalence ratio of PBC-OLT cases near SFS was statistically significantly higher than in zip codes that did not have, nor border with, a toxi

Contact: David Greenberg
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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