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Release: Aug. 17, 2000

College of Public Health surveys Iowa atomic weapons workers

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy, investigators in the University of Iowa College of Public Health are initiating a survey of the health status of former atomic weapons workers at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant (IAAP) near Burlington.

The survey will attempt to identify the potentially thousands of former IAAP employees who worked in atomic weapons manufacture at the plant, in an area 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 (DOE).

"The IAAP is one of only two facilities in the United States known to have manufactured atomic weapons," said Laurence Fuortes, M.D., UI associate professor of occupational and environmental health and principal investigator on the DOE project. "This project will attempt to locate and identify those individuals who were directly involved in this work and determine whether their health has been affected by their occupational exposures."

In addition to fissionable or radioactive materials, it is possible workers may have been exposed to potentially hazardous levels of a number of other substances, including explosives, solvents, epoxies, heavy metals and harmful dusts, Fuortes said.

The UI College of Public Health investigators will examine existing data sources, such as employment records, to identify former Line 1 workers. They will also conduct focus group interviews and pilot surveys, and host public meetings in the Burlington area to locate former employees and ascertain health concerns.

An advisory board, consisting of local unions, the IAAP site management, community representatives, and state and local public health officials and medical providers, will be established to assist in the identification of worker health issues, provide input on the direction of the study, and provide a means for community input.

For more information, contact Howard Nicholson at the UI College of Public Health, at (319) 335-4210.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.