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University of Iowa News Release


Dec. 11, 2006

Ames Lab Former Workers Eligible For Free Medical Program

Former workers at the Ames Laboratory at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa are invited to participate in a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Former Worker Medical Surveillance Program. The program provides all former DOE employees, contractors and subcontractors free medical screening tests to determine possible health conditions as a result of exposure to harmful substances during their employment at DOE sites.

The Ames Laboratory-Former Worker Program is conducted by the University of Iowa College of Public Health with funding from the DOE.

"Workers may have been exposed to uranium, thorium, beryllium and other toxic substances that were historically used at the Ames Laboratory," said Laurence Fuortes (photo, left), M.D., the program's principal investigator and UI associate professor of occupational and environmental health.

The program seeks to identify and locate those individuals who were formerly employed by the Ames Laboratory, determine what occupational hazards workers may have been exposed to at the Ames Laboratory, and offer free medical screenings to all Ames Laboratory former workers to detect early stages of occupational illness.

Program staff recently sent letters to 785 former Ames Laboratory workers inviting them to receive a free medical screening. The workers were employed by the laboratory between 1942 and 1960 and were exposed to extremely high levels of hazardous substances. The screening includes a health and work history questionnaire, general blood tests, a blood test for beryllium sensitization, urinalysis, lung function tests and chest X-rays, if needed. Participants will receive their test results and will be informed of any recommendations for follow-up medical care.

In addition, Ames Laboratory former workers may be eligible for a separate, federally administered program called the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), carried out by the Department of Labor (DOL). This program provides benefits to individuals who have developed an illness or illnesses as a result of their employment at DOE facilities where nuclear weapons were developed, tested or produced.

Early-era Ames Laboratory employees have been designated as a "Special Exposure Cohort" under EEOICPA. This cohort includes employees who worked from Jan. 1, 1942, through Dec. 31, 1954 for at least 250 workdays.

Special Exposure Cohort status allows eligible cancer claims to be compensated without the completion of a radiation dose reconstruction or a determination of the probability of causation.

"In other words, there is a presumption that the cancer is related to work at the facility, given the dramatically high exposure to thorium and other radionuclides," Fuortes said.

For more information about the Ames Laboratory-Former Worker Program and the free medical screening, call the project's toll-free number at 866-282-5818. For information about EEOICPA, call the DOL Resource Center's toll-free number at 866-540-4977.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.

CONTACTS: Ames Laboratory-Former Worker Program: Jill Welch, 866-282-5818. Media: Debra Venzke, 319-335-9647,