A University of Utah researcher says figures from his study that attributes the deaths of as many as 60 Utah County residents to pollution probably are an underestimate.
"There are many other deaths, such as those from heart disease, not included in my research that might be attributed to community air pollution," Dr. Vincent Archer said Thursday."It's likely that air pollution may contribute to more deaths. But that will be more difficult to study and determine. If anything, we have underestimated the risk of air pollution."
Archer, director of the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Utah Medical School, said 30 percent to 40 percent of the respiratory cancer and non-malignant diseases, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, are caused by air pollution.
Archer contends pollution in Utah County is responsible for 11 to 14 extra lung-cancer deaths and 39 to 46 extra deaths from respiratory diseases each year.
Geneva Steel has disputed Archer's conclusions. Spokeswoman Mary Kay Lazarus said the Archer study runs counter to every other study that Geneva knows of.
"Utah's cancer rate is, to begin with, half of the national average for lung cancer. Utah County's rate is statistically significantly lower than the U.S. average," she said.
Archer said his two-year study has been more refined than EPA studies because it does not mix smoking rates with community air pollution as do studies being used to defend Geneva.
Utah County has few smokers, but has an extremely high death rate from non-malignant diseases, as well as cancer, he said.
"The fact is that in Utah County, the community air pollution is causing much more cancer and other diseases, and eventually death, than is normal," Archer said.
Similar deaths do not occur to such an extent in Cache County, he said.