Former Metals and Controls Workers Battling Cancer in Attleboro, Massachusetts
In the late 1950s, most of the young men and women who agreed to take jobs manufacturing nuclear reactor fuel components at Metals & Controls in Attleboro were just starting careers and families. Few apparently gave any thought to the dangers of working with or around enriched uranium and other
radioactive materials. Most workers at Metals & Controls that later became part of Texas Instruments never considered their job a potential threat to their health. Workers have been quoted as saying, “ We were all young and didn’t know a lot about what was going on…”
Originally, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), work related to radioactive materials was conducted in at least three buildings at the Forest Street complex. Later, operations were consolidated into a single structure, Building 10, that was constructed in 1956. Some of the wastes from the manufacturing operations were buried in an outdoor area next to Building 11. Small amounts of radium 226 were also found by radiological surveys in Building 1, the building closest to Forest Street. Because it could find no documentation limiting potential radiation exposure to a particular building, according to a 2010 Labor Department bulletin, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health assumes that workers could have been exposed to radioactive materials in any part of the Metals & Controls site.
Attorney Balser’s father, Charles Balser, was one of those workers. Mr. Balser began working for Metals & Controls in 1950 and continued to be a loyal and dedicated employee until his retirement some forty (40) years later. A short six months after his retirement, Attorney Balser’s father was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away in 1993 as a result of that cancer. Attorney Balser remembers as a teenager the many occasions when she picked up her father at Building 1 off of Forest Street and at the more newly constructed Building 10 set farther back in the Texas Instruments Campus. She vividly remembers the red film badge dosimeters Mr. Balser wore that he had been told were detecting the radiation levels he was exposed to while at work so as to protect him from dangerous levels of radiation. Clearly this protection failed.
Now, more than 50 years later, many of those who worked long hours assembling nuclear parts or working in test labs, including Attorney Balser’s father, battled or are still battling cancer, and many – apparently including the government – know the cancers may have been caused by their work in the nuclear industry at the Metals & Controls Division of Texas Instruments.
According to a 2001 U.S. Department of Energy report containing newly declassified information about government contractors that processed uranium for nuclear weapons, Metals & Controls and later Texas Instruments fabricated uranium fuel elements for the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program from 1952
through 1965. The plant, was the first non-government facility allowed to fabricate fuel for nuclear reactors. The company's nuclear operations were so extensive that the Department of Labor classified the Attleboro site as an "atomic weapons employer."
Texas Instruments sold the Attleboro manufacturing complex in 2006, but has never tried to contact workers or their surviving family members to inform them that they might be eligible for federal compensation or medical help for their cancer. Texas Instruments claims it has cooperated with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on issues related to cancer claims and has made information available to its former workers. The workers tell a far different story. From all accounts, Texas Instruments has not even used its personnel records to reach out to former employees or their families. The proof lies with the minute number of employees who have filed claims or received help.
The company began cleanup of uranium contamination in 1981 after nuclear operations ceased and the site's government license to manufacture nuclear materials lapsed. Decontamination of the plant was completed in 1997 according to the Energy Department and it received a sign-off from federal and state officials, who said the site needed no further remediation.
But former workers, including those who fabricated nuclear fuels and switches, disposed of scrap and performed laboratory testing, still carried in their bodies the effects of exposure to radioactive materials and other substances. While Texas Instruments may have cleaned up its campus former workers, still carried in their bodies the effects of exposure to radioactive materials and other substances.
In addition, some of the waste from the plant - as well as from the local jewelry industry - ended up in the former Shpack landfill on the Norton-Attleboro line. Radioactive waste at the landfill has also allegedly been linked to cancer in lawsuits filed by two residents against Texas Instruments and several other landfill users. The plaintiffs contend they contracted cancer because of the dumping.
The Makepeace Division of Engelhard Industries in Plainville also fabricated nuclear fuel elements from1957 to 1962, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) records. Manufacturing at Makepeace involved the use of natural, depleted and enriched uranium. That site was decontaminated
You may contact Attorney Balser for assistance to insure you receive the full compensation you entitled to under the Act by calling (508) 699-2500 Ext 11 or make an appointment by using this link.