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University of Iowa News Release

Release: April 25, 2003

UI Research Team Investigating IAAAP Worker Health Reports Screening Results

One year into a program to identify and assess the health of former atomic weapons workers at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant (IAAAP) in southeast Iowa, a team of investigators from the University of Iowa College of Public Health has conducted almost 500 medical screenings, serving more than 90 percent of the former workers who responded to a health and occupational history questionnaire.

The Burlington Atomic Energy Commission Plant-Former Worker Program (BAECP-FWP) also recommended follow-up care for 80 people whose health conditions may have been related to employment at the weapons facility. The UI project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), also identified 325 individuals who required follow-up care for non-work-related conditions.

The potentially work-related health conditions identified in the screenings include asbestos-related disease, cancer, chronic beryllium disease, and emphysema or obstructive airway disease. Preliminary data from the medical screenings show three cases of lung cancer, one case of thyroid cancer, one case of colon cancer and three cases of prostate cancer.

The data also show 10 cases of chronic beryllium disease. Of 650 former workers screened by the BAECP-FWP or the DOE's Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), 20 have tested positive for sensitivity to beryllium. Of those, some apparently had very minimal occupational exposures and could have worked in a variety of positions throughout the plant.

According to Laurence Fuortes, M.D., UI professor of occupational and environmental health and principal investigator on the BAECP-FWP, workers may have been exposed to potentially hazardous levels of radioactive materials and other substances, including beryllium, explosives, solvents, epoxies, heavy metals, asbestos and other harmful dusts.

"These free health screenings carry a number of benefits," Fuortes said. "In addition to discovering undiagnosed diseases among individuals and referring them for follow-up care, these former employees are helping us to understand the health factors affecting this entire workforce."

During the Cold War, an estimated 4,000 IAAAP employees worked in atomic weapons assembly in an area known as Line 1 or Division B at the Middletown, Iowa plant. IAAAP is one of only two facilities in the United States that participated in the final assembly of atomic weapons.

The medical screening program continues to be available to former workers employed by DOE (formerly the Atomic Energy Commission or AEC) at IAAAP from 1947-1975. To find out how former DOE workers can participate in the screening program, call toll-free 1-866-282-5818. Eligible participants will receive a health and work history questionnaire to complete and return to the study team. All information is strictly confidential and is not reported to insurance companies.

A federal compensation program, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), has been established to pay damages to former DOE workers for illnesses resulting from their employment. Although the UI health study is unrelated to the compensation program, former workers may use the results of their medical screenings to substantiate a claim to the DOL. Workers who would like more information about the compensation program can call toll free 1-866-540-4977.

STORY SOURCE: The University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.

CONTACT(S): Media: Debra Venzke, (319) 335-9647, debra-venzke@uiowa.edu. BAECP Former Worker Program: 1-866-282-5818. Writer: Dan McMillan.

PHOTOS/GRAPHICS: A photo of Dr. Laurence Fuortes is available at http://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/faculty/~fuortes.html.