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Joplin Citizens and Health Organizations Call on Missouri Gov. Nixon for Study, Action on High Incidence of Birth Defects and Chronic Diseases in Community

JOPLIN, Mo., April 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Local and national public health organizations joined the Steelworkers Union today in calling on Governor Jay Nixon for a thorough investigation and action to alleviate the rising incidence in Joplin of birth defects and chronic diseases, which may be associated with industrial pollution.


This call for government action accompanies release of a public health report by the organizations -- using the most current public health data available from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS) -- on the high incidence of birth defects and chronic diseases, such as cancer, strokes, and diseases of the heart, respiratory system and immune system. The report was produced by the United Steelworkers, which represents 250 workers at the EaglePicher Technologies, LLC battery plant in Joplin, a military contractor, and hundreds of others in the area.

MDHSS data shows rapidly rising rates of birth defects in recent years for Joplin residents.

"Statewide, the incidence of birth defects rose from 571 per 10,000 births in 1999-2001 to 601.9 in 2003-2005. In Joplin, birth defects per 10,000 births rose from 557 in 1999-2001 to 793.1 in 2003-2005," said Betty Mekdeci, executive director, Birth Defect Research for Children.

"This means that for every 1,000 babies born in Joplin, 16 more babies suffer with birth defects than in the rest of the state, according to this government data," stated Tess Hill, president, Kids for Saving Earth.

In addition, the "Chronic Disease Profile for Joplin Residents" section of the report shows Joplin residents with a significantly higher rate of death, hospitalization and emergency room visits compared to residents in the rest of Missouri.

"We need immediate government action on this problem for the sake of all the people who live and work in Joplin," said, Christopher Gavigan, executive director of Healthy Child Healthy World.

The health report notes the long history of lead mining and smelting and other industrial activity in the area, and its legacy of soil and water pollution. Lead causes a wide range of birth defects, as do other contaminants from lead smelting.

"We feel that the citizens of Joplin deserve a comprehensive study to identify the causes of these serious health problems and once determined, an explanation of how they will be corrected," said Teresa Buckmaster, USW Local 812 president. "What's at stake here is the most precious thing we have, the future of our families."

Buckmaster said members of her local union are concerned about community health problems and fighting efforts by management at EaglePicher to cut back family health care benefits for employees at this producer of batteries and energetic devises for the defense, space and commercial industries. She said, "This report shows why union members and all Joplin residents should be very concerned about public health and access to health care."

The full public health report for Joplin can be accessed through the following link:

For more information contact:

Diane Heminway, USW, 585-703-6375

Teresa Buckmaster, USW Local 812 President, 417-499-8220

Howard Scott, USW, 412-580-6980

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
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