NEW YORK — A story printed in Friday’s New York Daily News attempts draw a correlation between Virginia Tech University killer Cho Seung-hui’s apparent mental imbalance to perchloroethylene use in drycleaning.
The story, “Toxic Fumes May Have Made Gunman Snap,” claims that children of drycleaners are three-and-a-half times as likely to develop schizophrenia as the general population. The gunman’s parents, Cho Sung and Cho Hyang, have worked in drycleaning since emigrating to the U.S. 15 years ago, most recently at a plant in Manassas, Va.
The story quotes Dr. Dolores Malaspina, chair of the New York University School of Medicine’s psychiatry department and co-author of a study that found a slightly higher incidence of schizophrenia in children of Israeli drycleaning workers. However, as a release from the International Fabricare Institute (IFI) notes, a careful reading of the story does not indicate her endorsement of the story’s premise.
Almost 89,000 people were included in the Israeli study’s data, IFI reports; 144 had parents who were drycleaners. Four drycleaners’ offspring later developed schizophrenia, for a rate of 2.8% — lower than rates of schizophrenia among the children of older parents (3%).
Furthermore, Dr. Malaspina has pointed to stress, socioeconomic status, brain trauma and early cannabis exposure as common risk factors for schizophrenia in recent interviews, IFI says, and no information is available about the solvents in use at the Israeli plants or at Cho’s parents’ plant. “There is no credible evidence that drycleaning is a factor in the tragic situation,” the association says.
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