Hanford thyroid study faulted

SPOKANE, Wash., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A recent study suggesting that high rates of thyroid disease near Washington state's Hanford nuclear reservation are not linked to radiation releases from the facility is being widely criticized.

The critics of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study include nationally known scientists, who say CDC officials exaggerated negative findings and buried contradictory data.

The Spokane Spokesman Review reports today that, though he stands by his science, even the chief researcher on the study admits its release was bungled.

Dr. Scott Davis, an epidemiologist with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told the newspaper, ``I couldn't agree more that we should have waited.''

Critics say the CDC jumped the gun by holding a public meeting to release findings that were only preliminary.

CDC officials said the decision to release the draft was made to respond to public pressure from so-called ``downwinder'' communities near the plant, most of which report high levels of thyroid disease.

``We didn't want to release it in someone else's public meeting,'' said Dr. Paul Garbe, director of epidemiology in the CDC's radiation studies branch.

The 10-year study concluded that 3,441 people born close to Hanford from 1940 to 1946 had no more thyroid disease than people living in eastern Washington communities slightly farther away.

But the study has been shown to have a plethora of problems, ranging from mathematical uncertainties to errors in radiation doses to study subjects.

``The researchers clearly went over the line when they told people they'd found no connection between Hanford's Cold War radiation releases of Iodine-131 and thyroid disease'' said Tim Connor, chairman of a CDC advisory committee on nuclear-related health studies, told the newspaper.

The CDC says it may schedule more community meetings to discuss the study. A final report is due by the end of the year.