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STATE FOLLOW-UP STUDY AT LOVE CANAL FAULTED
EFFORT TO TRACK LONG-TERM HEALTH EFFECTS DESCRIBED AS 'TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE'

A state plan to study former Love Canal residents and their descendants was criticized Wednesday as a measure that is too little and too late.

"I think it's a good idea in a way, but I think it's 20 years too late," said Samuel Giarrizzo, a 45-year resident of Love Canal who never left his 98th Street home.

Giarrizzo, who purchased his home in 1955 for $16,000, said economic reasons prompted him to stay in Love Canal, a development now renamed Black Creek.

"I'm healthy," said Giarrizzo, a former machine operator who declined to give his age. "I can still do push-ups with two fingers."

The study -- to determine the long-term health effects of the hazardous waste in the dump beneath the Love Canal homes -- will include interviews and medical records of former residents and their children.

"No physical exams will be done," said Claire Pospisal, a state Health Department spokeswoman. "We'll be matching the people in the Love Canal study group with various medical registries and state cancer registries throughout the country."

Lois M. Gibbs, whose Love Canal activism brought her national attention, said the study is doomed to fail. Its structure means a whole range of people with past problems will not be counted, she said. For example, people who are now healthy, but who experienced problems years ago may slip between the cracks.

"They're going to find no problem at Love Canal," predicted Ms. Gibbs, executive director at the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, a grass-roots group near Washington.

"That tells the public a misleading conclusion, that living by a toxic waste site does not create long-term or short-term health effects, and I think that's misleading and I think that's wrong," Ms. Gibbs said. "And it will make people feel safer moving into those new homes at Love Canal."

A nine-member peer review panel -- composed of scientists from Occidental Chemical, the successor to the company that dumped the toxic waste; the state Health Department; and the local community -- will monitor the study to provide technical advice, Ms. Pospisal said.

"We would be happy to receive nominations from anyone in the community who has technical expertise in epidemiology, public health, statistics, toxicology, environmental science or occupational or environmental medicine," she said.

While no decisions have yet been made, one local group -- the Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency -- Wednesday confirmed it has recommended Patricia M. Powell, former Niagara County health director, for the panel.

Mrs. Powell, who retired in 1994, was with the County Health Department for 27 years, the last 10 as its director.

The health study is in its initial phases, with attention directed toward tracking up to 7,000 people on the Love Canal Health Registry.

"If for some reason someone was never contacted and wants to be part of the study," said Ms. Pospisal, "they should call the state Department of Health at 1-800-458-1158."

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