ANNISTON, Ala. (WIAT) – Years ago, a chemical plant in Anniston was forced to clean up its act after residents were exposed to high levels of polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCBs.
Those chemicals have been known to cause cancer and other health problems.
Now, doctors at UAB are working on a follow-up health survey for people in Anniston who may have come in contact with the chemicals.
Johnny Sanders is experiencing some of the health effects caused by PCBs.
“I got so many health issues going on right now,” Sanders said. “I got cancer. Lung cancer.”
Sanders is in remission from cancer, but she also has congestive heart failure and diabetes.
She’s just one of hundreds of Anniston residents who visited a clinic in 2007 for the first UAB health study dealing with PCBs.
Now, she has returned so doctors can follow up.
“People who had higher levels of PCBs also tended to have problems with diabetes, high blood pressure and problems of that sort,” said Dr. Stephen Mennemeyer with the UAB School of Public Health.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) forced Monsanto Corporation and all other chemical plants to stop producing PCBs in the 1970s.
The EPA determined those chemicals caused cancer and had other negative effects on the immune and reproductive systems.
“The water would sometimes be clear and sometimes the water would be green,” Sanders recalled.
Researchers at UAB are finding that people who ate fish from local rivers have even higher levels of PCBs.
The harm threatening Sanders had already been done to her body, but she’s glad to be a part of the study.
“Even if it don’t help me, it might help somebody else,” Sanders said.
Doctors at UAB still need to hear from hundreds of people who participated in the first study.
Anyone who received a letter about the new study should contact them immediately by calling (855) 822-178.
Those who choose to participate in the follow-up study will receive a $100 gift card.
Copyright 2014 WIAT-TV CBS42