SLO County health department report refutes study about Diablo County health risks

dsneed@thetribunenews.comApril 14, 2014 

Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant

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The county Public Health Department has released a report that refutes a recent study that found that people living near Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant have higher disease rates.

Dr. Penny Borenstein, county health officer, said the report issued by the World Business Academy of Santa Barbara used “flawed methodology and selective exclusion of populations on interest” to reach its conclusion that living near Diablo Canyon increases the likelihood of low birth weight babies, childhood leukemia and adult cancers.

The World Business Academy is a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit think tank whose mission is “to inspire business to assume responsibility for the whole of society.”

“As health officer for San Luis Obispo County, I take the health of our residents very seriously, and when a claim was made that excess cancer and infant mortality was occurring in our county, I made an immediate priority to investigate further,” Borenstein said.

Diablo Canyon owner PG&E said the author of the World Business Academy report, New Jersey-based epidemiologist Joseph Mangano, has a history of doing flawed work.

“Given Mr. Mangano’s history of discredited reports due to poor science, and that this newer report draws on the previously discredited work, PG&E is not giving this report any consideration,” said Blair Jones, PG&E spokesman.

Specifically, the county’s 14-page report said ZIP codes were included and excluded selectively to reach the alleged effects on birth weights claimed in the World Business Academy report.

For example, the World Business Academy report excluded the Santa Maria ZIP code 93454. If that ZIP code is included in the analysis, the low birth-weight ratio shows a slight decrease.

The county also concluded that the use of crude rates in analyzing cancer cases in the county distorted the true change in rates over time. Crude rates are total numbers that do not take into consideration factors such as age and ethnicity or disease rates within subgroups of a population.

The State Cancer Registry examined the report and found that the use of crude rates in analyzing cancer cases in the county distorted the true change in rates over time.

Age-adjusted cancer rates in the area have remained unchanged or declined, Borenstein said.

The full county Public Health Department report can be found at www.slopublichealth.org.

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