Ill Hanford workers can access exposure database

By:  Michelle Dupler
Source: Tri-City Herald

Hanford workers whose health has been harmed on the job now have access to an online database to learn more about their exposure to toxic chemicals and related illnesses.

Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both D-Wash., announced Thursday that Hanford information had been released as part of the Site Exposure Matrix with information for workers and former workers covered by Part E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.

Part E offers workers or their survivors up to $250,000 for impairment or lost wages because of any of a variety of illnesses caused by exposure to hazardous chemicals or radiation. Medical expenses also are paid.

The database first was announced May 10, and included data for 48 sites but did not include the Hanford information.

Cantwell and Murray sent a letter June 25 to the departments of Energy and Labor asking for the speedy release of the Hanford exposure data.

The Energy Department responded July 2 by releasing the information for Hanford and 20 other nuclear sites.

"I applaud the departments of Labor and Energy for responding so quickly to our request and making the chemical exposure database on the Hanford site available," Cantwell said. "Making this information available publicly to former Hanford workers will add transparency to the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program and help Hanford workers make more accurate determinations regarding their health needs."

Cantwell said having access to the full data will help Hanford workers more quickly sort through the program's complicated paperwork.

"I am so glad Hanford workers are finally going to be able to access the tools they deserve to help them stay healthy," Murray said. "I applaud the departments of Energy and Labor for making this new resource available, and I am going to continue working with the Hanford community to make sure that workers remain safe and protected."

Cantwell and Murray's June 25 letter asked the departments to fix inefficiencies that slow down claims processing for former and current workers and contractors.

A Government Accountability Office report released in March showed that compensation claims for Hanford and other nuclear site workers with cancer take about three years to process if radiation exposure must be estimated. If radiation exposure does not have to be estimated, the time to process a claim drops to about a year.

Part B of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program pays $150,000 if radiation is determined to have caused a worker's cancer. Some workers may be eligible for payments under both Part B and Part E.

Read more here: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2010/07/16/1094650/ill-hanford-workers-can-access.html#storylink=cpy