They may reveal higher cancer risk
DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE, ROCHESTER, NY, TUESDAY, JULY 17,
The Associated Press
Philadelphia --- The federal government is mailing
radiation exposure records of 50,000 nuclear weapons
workers to researchers who suspect low-level radiation
causes more cancer than the government says.
The Energy Department, which for years resisted
releasing the data, said yesterday that computer tapes
concerning the Hanford, Wash. nuclear reservation
would be put in the overnight mail.
The move fulfills an agreement the Energy Department
reached last month with a Philadelphia-based group that
monitors plant safety, the Three Mile Island Public
"It's been a long struggle and I'm very gratified that
we've been successful." said Daniel Berger, a lawyer for
the group which prodded the Energy Department into
releasing the information.
In Washington, Energy Department spokesman Bob
Griffin said officials in Hanford were "making last-minute
adjustments, working feverishly" to prepare the tapes,
which he said would be sent by early today.
The department agreed to release records of workers at
10 weapons plants in four batches over the next 10
months. All told, the information will cover 200,000 of
the 300,0000 current and former workers at the plants
since World War II.
Researchers Thomas Mancuso of the University of
Pittsburgh and Alice Stewart and George Kneale of
Birmingham University in England studied records in the
late 1970s for the Energy Department but were
discharged after publishing preliminary findings showing
high cancer rates.
"We left the story rather abruptly because we produced
a risk estimate that was considered impossibly high,"
Stewart recalled yesterday.
The Energy Department stopped financing their
research and denied access to the record citing patient
confidentiality. The Three Mile Island Public Health
Fund sued for access and the department agreed to
reopen the files giving the researchers access to the
The release means that "whoever owns the industry
must never be totally in charge of health records," she
said. It also enables the resumption of research done
more than 10 years ago, Stewart said. "We're hoping
that, say by the end of the year, we establish some very
firm points." (emphasis added)