Jan. 5, 2009
New information helps UI researchers identify atomic weapons workers
University of Iowa researchers investigating the health of former atomic weapons workers at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant (IAAAP) near Burlington are tapping new information that details specific areas within the plant that were once part of the United States' nuclear weapons infrastructure. The information is helping the researchers based in the UI College of Public Health to identify former IAAAP workers who may be eligible for free health screenings for health problems stemming from exposures to workplace hazards.
The recently received documents from the U.S. Department of Energy describe area boundaries and identify specific buildings, roads, railroad lines and other facilities within the 19,000-acre ammunition plant that were once used for nuclear weapons development, according to Laurence Fuortes, M.D., UI professor of occupational and environmental health and director of the Burlington Atomic Energy Commission Plant Former Worker Program.
"Historically, the plant produced not only components for atomic weapons but also manufactured conventional military munitions," Fuortes said. "One of the challenges of identifying workers eligible for Department of Energy health screenings has been pinpointing those areas of the plant that were involved in atomic weapons processes."
From 1949 through mid-1975, the Atomic Energy Commission (now the U.S. Department of Energy) contracted with the IAAAP to supply explosive components for nuclear weapons. Over that time, thousands of Iowans were secretly employed in a variety of jobs relating to atomic weapons.
Reports of illnesses among IAAAP's atomic weapons workers -- so-called Line 1 employees -- first came to public attention in 1997. In 2005, the Department of Labor designated DOE contract workers at the plant as a Special Exposure Cohort, entitling them to compensation for cancers and other work-related illnesses.
According to the Labor Department documents, buildings and other areas of IAAAP that made up Line 1 include: Yard C; Yard G; Yard L; Firing Site Area; Burning Field "B;" and storage sites for pits and weapons, including Buildings 73 and 77.
In addition, several other areas of the IAAAP are identified as "joint-use facilities," which were used for both AEC and conventional weapons purposes. Joint-use properties include the plant's roads and portions of its railroad system; general-purpose facilities, such as fire station, hospital, guard buildings, laundry and utilities systems; shops and warehouses; administration building; and recreation facilities. Workers employed in these areas between early 1949 and mid-1975 are eligible to receive free medical screenings.
UI researchers encourage former workers who were employed on or in the vicinity of Line 1 or in the above mentioned joint-use facilities to call the project's toll-free number at 866-282-5818 for more information about the free medical screening program.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4258 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.