RE: cancer in the histology lab (was 10% formaldehyde)

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From:Pam Marcum <>
To:James Hall <>,,
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Jim,  I think it is a great idea to ask these questions and maybe drag out
the study done in the early eighties about exposure done by NSH.  Lynn
Montgomery and others were instrumental in getting it done.  Unfortunately
it was not given the press it needed and we didn't have Histonet to help
with the discussions.  Pam

-----Original Message-----
From: James Hall []
Sent: Monday, February 21, 2000 5:09 AM
Subject: Re: cancer in the histology lab (was 10% formaldehyde)


Why don't you devise a questionnaire for us oldies to answer, say 50 years
and over with questions such as:

Which of the following chemicals have you been exposed to during your
working career?

Do you know of any fellow technicians who have contracted Ca attributed to
chemical exposure + details?

Cigarette smoking could also come into it.

What is your current state of health and if not 100%, would you attribute
this to chemical exposure?

I have two years to go now to 65 and retirement and have worked in
laboratories since I was 16 and am still hail and hearty.  Some of the
chemicals I have worked with are a definite no no nowadays, maybe I am just
lucky or its all in the genes.  I may be wrong but I imagine the results of
such a survey would be positive and may go some way to reassure younger
colleagues that there is not as much danger as one would imagine provided
good laboratory working practices are in place.


At 09:08 19/02/00 -0500, wrote:
>Donna Barlow at Duke University in North Carolina writes:
>>>We have technicians working in our surgical pathology lab that have had
>are dealing with cancer. The cancers these people have dealt with  and are
>dealing with are breast cancer, colon, kidney, uterine, ovarian, and
>abdominal cancer.<<
>None of these cancers (with the possible exception of kidney) is thought to
>be related to exposure to environmental carcinogens. If people were getting
>cancers related to inhaled carcinogens, you'd expect cancers of the head
>neck, lungs, and urinary bladder. To imply that these unfortunate people
>developing cancer because they're exposed to laboratory chemicals raises
>needless anxiety among people who are exposed to them.
>Unfortunately, the facts are fewer than they should be. The AMA tracks
>of death of American physicians quite carefully. The causes of death of
>American pathologists don't differ from those of other physicians (whereas
>radiologists, at least the older generation, differ profoundly). It seems
>me that that fact goes a long way to exonerate formaldehyde as a major
>carcinogen, since pathologists probably get more formaldehyde exposure than
>anybody else in the average lab (well, at least  I do!)
>If there's a suspect carcinogen in the histology lab it's xylene (along
>the closely related benzene and toluene). Here histotechnologists get more
>exposure than pathologists. Unfortunately, the causes of death of
>histotechnologists are not well documented. I think it would be a good idea
>for NSH to start collecting the death certificates of its members past and
>present, but only a minority of histotechs belong to NSH, and many people
>several years of exposure, leave the field forever, and would thus be lost
>such follow-up. (AMA tracks all American physicians, members or not.)
>Bob Richmond
>Samurai Pathologist
>Knoxville TN
Jim Hall,
MDA Equipment Evaluator,
Department of Histopathology,
University College London Hospitals,
Rockefeller Building,
University Street,
London, WC1E 6JJ.
Tel.No. 0171 209 6042
Fax 0171 387 3674

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