Saturday, August 25, 2007


Good Morning Neighbor:

Our Scientific Committee led by Dr. Lois Speaker has thoroughly researched the Georgia Department of Health Open Records obtained by Ben Nelms of The Citizen.  The findings are unbelievable!!!  The GDOH was made aware of our exposure through research that was being conducted by national researchers who were looking for markers of possible Bio-terrorism in our Nation.  When a spike in animal illness in our area showed up on their radar screen, the GDOH was contacted to make them aware of a possible chemical event happening in the Fairburn area beginning in May 2006.  The findings of our exposure were formally presented at Purdue University in September 2006 - but we the victims were never told.  The Open Records show that the GDOH was pondering how to tell us but they chose not to do so.

I am including a summary of the Scientific Committees research into this matter.  Please let me know what you think and what you feel our next step as community might be?  Also, please plan to attend our September 6 meeting at Bethany United Methodist at 7pm!!!

Your neighbor,


Constance Thomas Biemiller, Chairman
South Fulton and Fayette Community Task Force



Here are direct quotations relating to the Fulton/Fayette Ethoprop Emissions Events of summer, 2006.  They come from a web pre-publication article entitled "LAHVA:  Linked Animal-Human Health Visual Analytics," authored by Ross Maciejewski, Benjamin Tyner, Yun Jang, Cheng Zheng, Rimma V. Nehms, David S. Ebert, William S. Cleveland, Mourad Ouzzani, Shaun J. Grannis, Lawrence T. Glickman.  The article will appear in 2007 in the IEEE Symposium on Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST).  Much of the information, which was made anonymous for this article, has already been presented at symposia at the University of Illinois and the IBM Research Center.


The gist of the results is that the data, having been subjected to the most rigorous mathematical pummeling, confirmed that animal health in the area of release [area not specified (Task Force)] was negatively affected during the period of the emissions.



Quotations from the pre-pub:


. . . Thus, monitoring the companion animal population of a society (i.e., dogs, cats) can provide early warning signs for emerging diseases.  In conjunction, exposures to many substances, such as pollutants, chemicals, allergens and natural toxins, originate from the environment and can have a detrimental effect on health.  Companion animals are exposed to the same substances as humans and monitoring their health can function as a "canary in a coal mine"[27].It has long been the goal of healthcare officials to identify and prevent hazardous exposures; however, lack of infrastructure and reportability in human health monitoring has hindered progress in this area.


Currently, our work has. . . focused on . . . (2) the effects of an industrial wastewater release on companion animals and the correlation to potential human health issues. . . . several syndromes for both cats and dogs were analyzed and preliminary results indicated that the industrial wastewater release negatively influenced the health of companion animals in this region.  Ongoing analysis is being performed in both cases before any definitive confirmations can be made. . . .


. . . [Human] data sources vary widely in accuracy and reliability, and it is often the case that unusual health trends, such as outbreaks or poisonings, often have an incidence profile (signal) that is obscured by the statistical noise….current population monitoring systems face other challenges . .. do not leverage existing messaging and vocabulary standards, . . . require manual data input, . . . lack of timely data acquisitions, data quality concerns and accurate data linkage. . . .our work focuses on syndromic surveillance by using companion animals as predictors to increase sensitivity and specificity. [underlined by the Task Force].  


In order to examine the effects of the release, the local Department of Health led an investigation in the region.  . ..human population of approximately 8,500 [is this correct, Task Force?  Of course, the region is not defined in this paper, so it could be drawn to include variable numbers] and the combined human population of the nearby communities is approximately 28,000 [same comment, Peachtree City and Fayetteville are both bigger than this!]    Unfortunately, lack of human health data sources [there must be an explanation for this (Task Force)] led the local Department of Health to assess these effects through a self-reported survey.  In contrast, our study focuses on pets in a twenty-mile radius surrounding the site using data from Banfield, the pet hospital. We have patient records for 74,660 dog and 21,202 cat visitations in this area spanning the time period prior to and following the release date.


…Three syndromes were identified as being potential indicators of adverse effects due to a release:  eye inflammation, respiratory, and gastrointestinal.  . . In the week following the spill, what seems to be an unusual amount of eye-inflammation cases appear near the source. . . to further verify that problems with eye-inflammation occurred, the bootstrapping method . . .was applied. . .  results indicate that eye-inflammation in dogs was significant near the release in our time period of interest [underlining ours;  note that "significant" means "statistically significant" and is therefore very important (Task Force)].. . Future work will focus on verification . . . and system enhancements.




  • Sept 2, someone from Georgia Department of Public Health asks Purdue veterinary epidemiologists to assist in an investigation, providing the following information.


  • On May 29, 2006 (later modified to "late June", 2006), Phillips Services Corporation emits noxious chemical [It is not  clear whether the Purdue team was told that, beginning in late May, there were multiple releases over at least a  two- month period.  PSC admitted to EPD that 38 highway tankers had been accepted, but they had contracted with AMVAC for 3 million gallons of "wash water", which would be 600 tanker loads!(Task Force)]
  • 600 residents sickened by onion-like chemical odor  [attributed to propyl mercaptan, one of the breakdown products of insecticide Ethoprop, (Task Force}]

·  Like the owners, many dogs and cats are sick, nearly all within 2-mile radius of PSC plant.


·  Pets dying from June – Aug, with signs of vomiting, diarrhea, skin irritation dyspnea [shortness of breath (Task Force)]


·  Chemical pesticide identified as Ethoprop



Here are descriptions of the NCASP/LHVA system that is the basis of the extracts above.  It is both critical and puzzling that, throughout all the interactions between the SF/FC Task Force and CDC/ATSDR over more than a year, Dr. Glickman and the important, pertinent results his team was developing were never mentioned to the Task Force!    We learned of these only in late June, 2007, more-or-less by accident.  Under the Georgia Open Records Act, we received a packet of internal ATSDR e-mails relating to the preparation of the final "Health Consultation"  by ATSDR.  In this packet we found records of contacts and his findings, which included (Oct. 27, 2006)    "Control charts run for the GI (vomiting and diarrhea) syndrome showed unusually high and statistically significant [underlining ours, Task Force] activity for dogs living 0 – 10 and 10 – 20 miles from (the) PSC plant during weeks 25 and 26 (June 18 – July 1) in 2006, but no unusual activity for dogs living more that 20 miles from PSC."  But the Health Consultation had "no recommendations at this time,"  implying that there had never been a real problem.




Dr. Glickman


Dr. Larry T. Glickman of Purdue University has a large team working on development and application of NCASP (below) and the analysis and proof of concept of NCASP data by LAHVA (below)..  Dr. Glickman's background and reputation are impeccable – more than 250 papers published in refereed journals, collaborative cross-disciplinary research with experts from several fields  Enthusiastic members of his team have been working pro bono for months with data originating with Banfield, the animal hospital of Petsmart, from the Fulton/Fayette Ethoprop Emissions Events.  Obviously, the data they worked with related to pets, and it is important to the proof of concept that there be human data for comparison.   In spite of the involvement of CDC and ATSDR, human data were so scarce as to be almost nonexistent.  This is a gap that the SC&FC Task Force could offer to fill through house-to-house interviews, using expanded report sheets to walk people retrospectively through their experiences of the Emissions Events.



NCASP,  National Companion Animal Surveillance System

Tradtional surveillance has emphasized disease detection.  Collection and analysis of data concerning the occurrence of unusual health events in a population is not sufficient for protecting public health.   9/11 showed that new methods are needed to detect unusual disease patterns earlier than the traditional approaches do.
Syndromic surveillance can

·  Provide surveillance for syndromic [pre-diagnostic clusters of symptoms (Task Force)] and disease events in pet animals in U. S.

·  Detect diseased individuals before a definitive diagnosis is possible, at the signs and symptoms (indications and warnings) stage. 

·  Detect outbreaks earlier and with greater sensitivity than diagnosis-based surveillance.

·  Is usually based on chief complaints, clinical signs, and laboratory findings.

·  May include non-patient indications and warnings before diagnosis (e.g., absences from work or school, frequency and pattern of phone calls from healthcare providers, ambient temperature, etc.)

·  Conduct statistical analyses to identify space-time clusters of events and risk factors (host environment) for disease

·  Alert to the potential for acts of bioterrorism and emerging zoonoses [diseases communicable between animals and man (Task Force)]

·   Signal sufficient probability [i.e., sufficient mathematical probability, rather than waiting for the canary to die [Task Force)] of an outbreak

·  Serve as a sentinel for environmental hazards [like release of toxic chemicals] [that threaten] human and animal health

·  Provide information about threats to humans, such as the presence of toxic chemical or infectious agents in the environment or the home.

·  Use the same same epidemiological and biostatistical methods (incuding descriptive and analytical techniques) as for people.

·  Put a system in place for (1) rapidly reporting events to first responders and for  (2) monitoring the effects of short-term and long-term intervention. 

·  Shows which problems warrant further public health response or investigation.


LAHVA, Linked Animal Human Health Visual Analytics


  • Synthesize information and derive insight from massive, dynamic, ambiguous, and often conflicting data
  • Detect the expected and discover the unexpected
  • Provide timely, defensible, and understandable assessments
  • Communicate assessment effectively for action
  • Earlier detection of some environmental and emerging health conditions
  • Cross-species monitoring reduces false positive rate and could improve spread factor analysis
  • By monitoring pets, covers areas that may not have electronic human health surveillance

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