About the study

For a quick overview of the study, refer to the study infographic!

The infographic is a quick resource and provides information related to the study background, study goals, and why you should participate! 


The main goal of the health study is to understand how pollutants emitted by the Tonawanda Coke plant have affected the health of residents in surrounding communities, including the City of Tonawanda, the Town of Tonawanda, and the Town of Grand Island, along with people who worked at or near the plant. the research team will use scientifically established methods to understand the types of health problems community members are experiencing, and how these conditions may be linked to exposure to chemicals found in coke oven emissions. The research team will also explore how lifestyle factors like diet and exercise may help to lower the risk of environmentally associated disease. Historical impact of exposures to emissions on health outcomes will also be analyzed while and the research team documents new cases of diseases that arise over the study period. These analyses will provide insight on how exposure to emissions may be continuing to impact resident's lives today, even after the plant emissions have been markedly reduced.

Overall study design and strategy

The Environmental Health Study is divided into three stages: Pilot study phases I and II, Full study phase I, and Full study phase II.


Pilot study phases I and II

Two pilot studies were completed to determine the best way to contact adult residents, and to test the study questionnaires and study recruitment materials.  The results of the pilot studies were reviewed with the study advisory committees (administrative, scientific, and community). For more details on the pilot methods and results, please see the Pilot study methods page.

Full study phase I

A major goal of the Full study phase I is to understand what diseases and conditions are occurring right now in the community.  An additional goal is to understand historical and current exposure to air pollution and other environmental exposures (e.g., secondhand smoke).  To accomplish this, the research team will mail study materials to all adult residents, and include a questionnaire that asks about medical history, occupational history, residential history, and lifestyle factors (e.g., smoking, physical activity).  Study participants will also be asked if they are willing to donate samples such as blood, urine or saliva.  These samples will be used to estimate current low level exposures to chemicals such as benzene or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Full study phase II

The main goals of the Full study phase II are to 1) document new cases of disease, and 2) to start in-depth studies on specific diseases and conditions, and 3) complete an historical exposure assessment.  To accomplish these goals study participants will be asked to complete follow-up questionnaires approximately every two years, and may be asked to schedule a visit to our laboratory for additional tests and questionnaires (e.g., dietary recall, height, weight, blood pressure).  The follow up questionnaires will ask about changes to medical and occupational history and lifestyle. The laboratory measures will depend on the specific disease or condition that is being studied. The research team will develop the laboratory measures in consultation with the study advisory committees.  The historical exposure assessment includes combining residential histories and air monitoring data from various agencies.  


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