Date of this Version
Residents living in communities near Superfund sites have expressed concern that releases from these facilities affect their health, including adverse effects on their immune systems. We used data from six cross-sectional studies to evaluate whether people who live near several Superfund sites are more likely to have individual immunoglobulin test results (IgA, IgG, and IgM) below or above the reference range than those who live in comparison areas with no Superfund site. Study participants consisted of target-area residents who lived close to a Superfund site and comparison area residents who were not located near any Superfund or hazardous waste sites. A consistent modeling strategy was used across studies to assess the magnitude of the relationship between area of residence and immunoglobulin test results, adjusting for potential confounders and effect modifiers. In all study areas, the results suggest that people who live near a Superfund site may have been more likely to have IgA test results above the reference range than comparison areas residents regardless of modeling strategy employed. The effect measures were larger for residents who lived in communities near military bases with groundwater contamination. For all analyses the wide confidence intervals reflect uncertainty in the magnitude of these effects. To adequately address the question of whether the immune system is affected by low-level exposures to hazardous substances, we recommend that more functional immunotoxicity tests be conducted in human populations where individual exposure information is available or when it can be reasonably estimated from environmental exposure measurements.