The Buffalo News - Buffalo - BETHLEHEM STEEL

Board urged to act on workers' radiation claims

By DOUGLAS TURNER

News Washington Bureau Chief

12/6/2003

WASHINGTON - The House members representing Erie and Niagara counties on Friday asked the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health to review why the federal government has rejected or delayed the overwhelming majority of claims by former Bethlehem Steel workers who were exposed to radiation.

Claimants were exposed while working on nuclear weapons programs during the Cold War, Reps. Jack Quinn, R-Hamburg; Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence; and Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, said in a letter to the advisory board, which is part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

"This is a race against time for many of these claimants, as they are an aging and ill population," the three House members wrote to the advisory board.

Of 907 claims filed by exposed workers at Bethlehem Steel Corp., they said, only 138 have been approved for compensation.

The Bethlehem Steel cases are among the first to be evaluated and ruled on, and could be a model for deciding the fate of other claims across the United States.

"All we ask is that the board take a look at the high rejection rate at Bethlehem Steel and ensure that the science behind those decision was sound," Quinn said.

Nationwide, 600,000 workers were exposed to radiation at 300 facilities working on nuclear weapons, with 31 in New York State, 15 of those located west of Syracuse.

Under a law adopted in 2000, workers can receive a lump sum of $150,000 if they became ill, particularly from cancer.

"We recognize that the science is complicated," the three House members wrote to the board. "However . . . we request this audit be conducted in a timely manner and the results reported back to us and the claimants."

e-mail: dturner@buffnews.com

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