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Officials to study multiple sclerosis in Lorain County
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Plain Dealer Reporter
Carlisle Township - Lorain County, home to an unusually high rate of multiple sclerosis, will be part of a groundbreaking national study examin ing environmental and genetic factors that may lead to the disease.
Federal, state and local health officials announced the three-year project Wednesday as they released results of a smaller MS study involving Lorain County and Wellington, a village of 4,500 in the southern part of the county.
"I think this is an extremely positive step. This is a very real opportunity to learn about MS," state Health Department investigator Robert Indian told reporters at the Carlisle Township Fire Department.
The study, which begins this week, will focus on 500 people from Lorain County and 20 counties outside Ohio with high rates of MS and exposure to toxic chemicals.
Also in the study are residents in Jackson County, Mo., who were exposed to an oil refinery, and residents of a 19-county area surrounding Lubbock, Texas, who were exposed to a smelting operation.
The study appears to be the first major MS research to consider both genetics and environmental exposure, said Dhelia Williamson of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
The cause of MS is unknown, but one or more environmental elements is thought to trigger it in people with a particular, but unknown, genetic makeup. The neurological disease has no cure and can lead to vision loss, paralysis, slurred speech, confusion and depression.
Lifelong Wellington resident Sally Giar, diagnosed with MS in 1983, applauded the latest study.
"I think eventually this will be a piece of the puzzle. For other people there will be some an swers," said Giar, 55, who has helped draw attention to Wellington.
Health officials began to study Wellington after Plain Dealer stories in 1999 revealed a concentration of MS cases there.
Health investigators, using a narrow time frame, found only 17 MS patients in Wellington, but residents say they know of at least 40 people, most of whom lived within six blocks of the now-defunct Sterling Foundry.
"I think that would have been the problem," said Molly Smith, whose 21-year-old daughter, Hailey, was diagnosed with MS seven years ago. Since then, Smith's mother and another family member have been diagnosed with MS.
Health officials studied environmental releases from Sterling and two other industrial facilities but were unable to reach any conclusions because of insufficient data.
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