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March 16, 1984

Love Canal Revisited

Author Affiliations

Laboratory of Radiobiology and Environmental Health University of California, San Francisco

JAMA. 1984;251(11):1464. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340350054029

In 1980 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the results of a pilot cytogenetic study of 36 self-selected residents of the Love Canal area in Niagara Falls, NY. This area had previously been used as a chemical dump site and now could only be regarded as an ecological disaster area. After being told the results of the initial cytogenetic tests performed on their peripheral blood lymphocytes, many of the residents were terrified. Some appeared on national television emotionally bemoaning the "fact" that they now were going to get cancer because their blood cells contained chromosomal aberrations.

The issue was so important that the US Department of Health and Human Services sent in a team of extramural experts to look at the data and the report that had led to so much anguish among those tested. The team was not allowed to see the data but did write a statement criticizing