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Oil Company Looking For Cause of Employee Brain Tumors

August 27, 1996

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (AP) _ Amoco Corp. shut down one floor of its chemical research center after 10 employees in the building were stricken with brain tumors since 1982.

Over a decade, the rate of brain tumors at the suburban Chicago center, which employed 2,000 people in 1990 and is now down to about 1,000, is almost one per year for every 2,000 people, more than 10 times the rate in the general population.

Four employees, including one who has died, were diagnosed with malignant tumors called glioma. Six others have been diagnosed with three different types of benign tumors.

``We are puzzled and distressed by it,″ Amoco spokesman Jim Fair said Tuesday. ``Anytime we have something like this that affects our employees, we turn over every rock and stone to find the cause.″

Amoco closed all 39 laboratories and offices on the building’s third floor in April after two employees were diagnosed with brain tumors earlier this year.

The third floor is the focus of the investigation because two employees stricken with glioma in 1989 worked there. Another on that floor underwent surgery for the same thing in 1986.

The employees with glioma worked with different chemicals, doing research with polymers, plastics and solvents. Two of them had spent a year or less in the labs, far less than the 10 years of exposure believed to be necessary to lead to glioma.

A 1989 company study, which was reviewed by the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois-Chicago, failed to find any link between the labs and the tumors. The study concluded the cases were a cluster, a statistical accident.

But over the years, the number of tumors climbed to 10, including one from 1982 that was uncovered in a search of medical records

The incidence of such tumors in the general population is five to six per year per 100,000 people, said Dr. Leonard Kurland of the Mayo Clinic. That equals one per 16,667 to 20,000 people.

``We didn’t have an answer, so we took the proactive step of relocating them,″ said George T. Kwiatkowski, manager of research and development for the chemicals division.

The oil company has called in researchers from the University of Alabama-Birmingham for a study into any link between the tumors and the research conducted in the building.

``They are going to tear the place apart to find out if there is something we’ve missed,″ said Dr. Michael S. Wells, manager of epidemiology at Amoco’s corporate offices in Chicago.

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