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Release: Oct. 18, 2001

UI College of Public Health to continue screening health of former atomic weapons workers

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa College of Public Health researchers have received a second year of funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to continue surveying the health status of former atomic weapons workers at the Iowa Army Ammunition plant (IAAP) near Burlington.

The $790,000 grant renewal will be used primarily to gather health and work histories of former IAAP workers and provide medical screenings to specific groups based on their occupational exposure to potentially hazardous substances. For the past year, UI researchers have been identifying thousands of former workers 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 DOE. The IAAP was one of only two facilities in the United States known to have assembled nuclear weapons into the final product.

"Evidence suggests that a large number of workers had potentially significant exposures to detrimental agents such as asbestos, beryllium, radiation and explosives," said Laurence Fuortes, M.D., UI associate professor of occupational and environmental health and principal investigator of the DOE project. "Workers who participate in the health screenings will receive information about their test results, risk factors and the need for any additional medical follow-up."

Workers will also receive help to determine if they are eligible for federal and state workers' compensation programs, Fuortes added.

UI investigators estimate they will screen 500 workers each year for the next several years. Plans are being developed to send a mobile health care service provider to the Burlington area to conduct hearing, lung function and blood tests. Chest X-rays will be performed at local participating hospitals.

Burlington Atomic Energy Commission Plant - Former Worker Program (BAECP) staff are also available to help Burlington residents fill out forms for the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act (EEOICP). BAECP staff will be in Burlington Oct. 16, 18, 23 and 25 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Machinists' Union Hall in Middletown. For more information on the medical screening program or to schedule an appointment to complete the EEOICP forms, call the project's toll-free number at (866)-282-5818.