The Buffalo News

More former N-arms workers may get federal aid under expanded program

By TOM BUCKHAM

News Staff Reporter

4/5/2005

Additional employees of five Western New York plants that once manufactured nuclear weapons-related material may be eligible for federal help under an expanded program for workers poisoned by radiation.

People who became ill after working at Ashland Oil between 1944 and 1948; Bliss & Laughlin Steel between 1948 and 1998; Linde Ceramics between 1940 and 1997; Simond Saws and Steel between 1948 and 2003; or the West Valley Demonstration Project between 1966 and 2003 could be eligible for assistance under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation program.

In each instance, weapons-related production may have ceased before the specified time period, but workers could have been exposed to "residual contamination," federal officials said Monday during two "town meetings" in the Buffalo Niagara Marriott, Amherst.

The law was originally designed to compensate employees - or their survivors - who were unknowingly exposed to radiation when they worked on secret atomic weapons programs and later contracted certain cancers linked to that exposure.

Under the law passed by Congress in 2000, thousands of former workers from 13 area plants have filed compensation claims for cancers they blame on exposure to nuclear materials in the 1940s and 1950s.

Benefits for employees who worked at plants after atomic weapons-related production stopped but later grew ill from radiation exposure were added to the compensation program last fall.

Lump sum payments or medical coverage will be available to those who worked "only during the period of residual contamination," Roberta Mosier, the Labor Department's deputy director of energy compensation, told about two dozen people who attended the afternoon session.

Investigators found that most of the 13 area sites once involved in the nation's nuclear weapons programs were free of residual contamination, she said.

People who believe they developed cancer because of exposure to such contamination may be eligible for compensation if they provide proof they were employed during specific years; present a diagnosis of cancer; and fit "dose reconstruction" criteria.

Dose reconstructions estimate the amount of radiation an individual or group was exposed to, based on evaluations of urine samples, air and soil readings, particle measurements and other data.

For assistance in filing claims, call toll-free (866) 363-6993.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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