Deltanet update

Delta Dental, the state’s largest dental-health carrier, recently held meetings with employees of its subsidiary Deltanet to report on air and water tests performed at its four-building Rancho Cordova site. The tests were ordered in response to employee concerns about the number of cancer diagnoses among co-workers in recent years [see “Fear of exposure” by Chrisanne Beckner, SN&R News, April 22].

Network Environmental Systems (NES) tested air and water samples for potential carcinogens that may have contributed to eight cancer cases among approximately 150 employees working on the second floor of one building. NES Vice President David Durst reported to employees during closed meetings that tests identified no detectable levels of carcinogens.

Durst’s quotes from the meetings—provided by Delta Dental public-affairs officer Jeff Album and later confirmed by Durst—summarized NES’ findings: “Through the course of the air and drinking-water sampling completed, NES has not identified any contaminants of concern or evidence to suggest an environmental problem in any of the Delta Dental buildings. … Furthermore, NES observed no noticeable difference in air-quality or water-quality data between buildings or floors within buildings.”

“They said the water is clean,” one employee, who prefers to remain anonymous to protect his job, reported by e-mail. “I am still concerned about chemicals in the water,” he added. Another employee noted that co-workers had stopped drinking coffee made on the site.

The testing was done before scientists had determined whether the eight cancer cases were more than an anomaly. Monica Brown, a regional cancer epidemiologist, is now performing a statistical analysis on employee data to determine whether the eight cases are “statistically relevant.”

If numbers are within average limits, Delta Dental will conclude its research. If Brown’s findings point to an unusual excess of cases, she said, her research will be distributed to other state agencies. Future research may result.

Community member Larry Ladd, who has tracked cancer cases and other health issues in Rancho Cordova for years, still may provide employees with additional information about the history of cancer in the area. By e-mail, Ladd said he’d likely distribute leaflets saying: “We really don’t think the water adversely affected anybody’s health, but here is how some people got sick in a very unusual way after higher exposures to NDMA. … If you get sick this way please let us know.”

In spite of the test results, at least one past employee is still concerned; the woman, who developed ovarian cancer after being laid off, continues to mourn co-workers who since have died from cancer.