CONTACT: DEBRA VENZKE
UI COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH
Release: Jan. 14, 2002
UI researchers survey former nuclear weapons workers
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa College of Public Health researchers
have mailed nearly 10,000 surveys to former workers at the Iowa Army Ammunition
Plant (IAAP) near Burlington to gather more details on workers' occupational
histories at the plant. The work history survey is the latest undertaking
of the Burlington Atomic Energy Commission Plant Former Worker Program, led
by Laurence Fuortes, M.D., UI associate professor of occupational and environmental
Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the former worker program is assessing
the health status of former IAAP employees who came in contact with an area
of the plant known as Line 1. From 1945 through 1975, workers on Line 1 assembled
and disassembled atomic weapons for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the
precursor of the Department of Energy. Evidence suggests that a large number
of plant employees may have had significant exposures to hazardous agents
such as asbestos, beryllium, radiation and explosives.
The completed questionnaires will be used to determine former workers' eligibility
for free medical screenings.
"Records from the IAAP were not detailed enough to determine exactly
where and when each employee worked at the plant, so we sent out surveys to
collect more information," said Kristina Venzke, project coordinator
for the former worker program. "We're specifically looking for Line 1
workers, as well as people who had substantial contact with Line 1, during
the years 1947 through 1975. Those are the individuals who may qualify for
a free health screening."
Every former worker who returns a survey will be notified of his or her
eligibility for a medical screening. The screenings, planned for this spring,
will take place in Burlington and will include blood work, urinalysis, hearing
tests, lung function tests and chest X-rays, if needed. Participants will
be informed about the test results, risk factors and the need for any additional
medical care. For more information on the former worker program, call the
project's toll-free number at (866) 282-5818.
In a related matter, a traveling resource center where nuclear weapons workers
or their survivors can get help applying for benefits under a new federal
workers' compensation program, the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation
Program Act, will open in Burlington next week. Former workers or survivors
can receive help on Jan. 22, 23 and 24 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Pzazz
Motor Inn, 3003 Winegard Drive. Appointments can be scheduled by calling,
toll-free, (866) 540-4977. Drop-ins are also welcome.
"Although they are somewhat related, the former worker survey and compensation
program are two different programs requiring separate paperwork," Venzke
said. "A completed survey may entitle a former worker to a free medical
exam, but in order to file a claim for the federal compensation program, the
official compensation forms must be filled out."
The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act went
into effect July 31, 2001 and provides $150,000 lump-sum compensation to nuclear
weapons workers who became ill as a result of exposure to radiation, beryllium
or silica on the job. An amendment to the law passed by Congress in December
2001 means that adult children will now be eligible for compensation if there
is no surviving spouse. Under the law as it was originally written, children
were eligible only if they were under age 18, full-time students under age
23 or incapable of self-support when their parent died.
Iowa is home to four facilities listed by the U.S. Department of Energy
as nuclear weapons producers. They are the Ames Laboratory, Ames; Bendix Aviation
(Pioneer Division), Davenport; the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, Burlington;
and Titus Metals, Waterloo.