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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | SIMI VALLEY

Funding Found for Rocketdyne Study

July 16, 1998|KATE FOLMAR

A citizens panel pushing for a community health study of residents who live near Rocketdyne's Santa Susana Field Laboratory may get a brief reprieve and some more funding, officials announced Wednesday.

The respite will probably come in the form of holdover money: about $100,000 left over from two UCLA worker health studies that are nearly complete, said Robert Harrison of the state Department of Health Services.

The citizens oversight panel, which has been monitoring the UCLA studies at the field lab, was in danger of losing all funding before even embarking on a study of community health--which was the group's original charter.

The threat of losing funding came from a change in bureaucratic policy, in which the federal Department of Energy will transfer the money and authority for health studies to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the end of September.

Although the Energy Department had funded the oversight panel's activities and the UCLA studies, it was unclear whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would pick up the task.

The $100,000--all that's left of the $1.5 million allocated for UCLA researchers to study the health effects of radiation and chemicals on Rocketdyne workers--should keep the panel afloat between nine months and a year.

During that time, the group will seek funding from a variety of state and federal sources to begin preliminary work on a community health study, said Dan Hirsch, an anti-nuclear activist who co-chairs the oversight panel.

Residents, many of whom have cancer and other illnesses, have long suspected that the toxic legacy of the 2,668-acre field lab, home to decades of nuclear and rocket engine research, harmed their health.

Their belief was bolstered last year when the UCLA study of workers exposed to radiation revealed a higher-than-expected cancer death rate. A similar study of workers exposed to harmful chemicals is due out this fall.

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