Woburn - Part 6

Mid-1980s and Beyond: Further Health Studies and the Legacy of Woburn

The Department of Public Health, with assistance from the CDC, organized a national advisory panel to recommend further studies in 1985. A birth outcomes study, termed the Woburn Environmental and Birth Study (WEBS), as well as a leukemia follow-up study, were recommended. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provided funds for both, and these began in 1988-1989. The WEBS study was released in 1994, with generally negative results. Citizens critiqued it based on the timing of the contamination and the study period.

The   Woburn Childhood Leukemia Follow-up Study was an expansion of the original 1981 DPH/CDC case-control study. The follow-up study included more cases and aimed to provide further insight into the causes of childhood leukemia in Woburn. Results were first publicly presented in June 1996 and formally released in 1997. Here, Suzanne Condon, Director of the Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, discusses the findings, which showed a link between pre-natal exposure to water from Wells G and H and risk of childhood leukemia. In 2002, results were published in the journal  The Science of the Total Environment.       (video)

In 1995, Jonathan Harr published the best-selling book A Civil Action, which documented the story of the trial. Later, in 1998, the movie starring John Travolta was released.

The leukemia rate returned to normal for Woburn as a whole. The citizens group FACE no longer functioned, although individual parents continued to speak at public events such as the panel following the premiere of the movie "A Civil Action."

In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified TCE as a Group 1 carcinogen, "carcinogenic to humans."