[MOL] Gov't admits nuclear danger.... [00972] Medicine On Line


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[MOL] Gov't admits nuclear danger....



Gov’t Admits Nuclear Danger
Workers Were Exposed to Cancer-Causing Chemicals

The Associated Press
Jan. 29 — A draft U.S. government report says elevated cancer rates have been found among 600,000 workers in the nation’s atomic weapons plants since World War II, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said today.
    
The report, requested by President Clinton after the government concluded that workers at some of the plants may have suffered beryllium poisoning, is the first acknowledgment by the government of a possible cancer link at the plants.
     It also increases the possibility that those exposed or their survivors might someday receive compensation from the government, Richardson indicated.
     “It does appear that in the DOE complex, there is a direct link between exposure and the possibility of contamination,” Richardson told The Associated Press. “And if that is the case, the honorable thing for the government to do is to protect its workers, past and present.”
     Richardson, who accompanied Clinton to Davos for an address to the World Economic Forum, cautioned that the report is preliminary and said the final version won’t be ready until March.

Government Played Down Risks
The report said elevated cancer rates were found among workers at 14 plants in the department’s atomic weapons complex, including leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and prostate, kidney salivary gland and lung cancers, The New York Times reported today.
     Since the beginning of the Manhattan Project in 1943 that developed the first atomic bombs, the government has minimized the risks to workers handling radioactive material at the plants.
     Daniel J. Guttman, an attorney for the Paper, Allied-Industrial Chemical and Energy Workers Union, told the Times that the draft conclusions were stunning. Guttman’s firm represents employees at 11 weapons factories.
     “The prior story line is, ‘What’s the big deal, the risks were marginal,“‘ he said.
     The Energy Department, along with various agencies, have been compiling data since July after Richardson’s agency concluded that some workers at weapons plants supplying beryllium developed beryllium disease, an incurable lung ailment.
     The Toledo Blade published stories in March that said government and industry officials knew for years about the dangers of beryllium but allowed workers to be exposed to it.
     The newspaper focused its six-day series on Cleveland-based Brush Wellman Inc., which operated a plant in Elmore, Ohio, near Toledo. Records show that beryllium disease has contributed to the deaths of at least 33 Brush workers and neighbors.
     President Clinton ordered a broad study that would also look at the effects of radiation and chemical hazards from uranium, plutonium and other substances.

Studies Go Back 30 Years
The findings come from epidemiological studies performed from as far back as the mid-1960s, including many dismissed by the government when they were published.
     Other information was gathered from the Energy Department, which now owns the nuclear plants, the Atomic Energy Commission, or their contractors. The Times said none of the research was specifically done for this study.
     The report is expected to be completed by March.
     Among the sites noted in the report were several operations at Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Savannah River in South Carolina; Hanford, in Washington state; Rocky Flats near Denver; the Fernald Feed Materials Center near Cincinnati; and at the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories.

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 
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