A Cruel Legacy

Have you or a loved one become a cancer victim as a result of working at Texas Instruments | Metals & Controls in Attleboro, Massachusetts? Let us help insure you receive the entire compensation that you are entitled to. If you or a loved one worked at the Attleboro site at any time from 1950 to 1967 contact us today for a free consultation.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Spreading the word on TI fund

Spreading the word on TI fund

Law clerk's article details father's illness

PAWTUCKET - Lou Wims worked for years at the Metals and Controls division of Texas Instruments Inc. in Attleboro, rising from a plumber's helper to a facilities manager responsible for maintaining the local plant.
When he died from lung cancer in 1998, his family had no reason to suspect his cancer might have stemmed from his employment at the plant, which manufactured fuel for nuclear reactors.
Now his daughter, Jenna Wims Hashway, 49, is using her legal background to spread the word to lawyers, cancer victims and their families that help is available.
As a judicial law clerk to Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, the Pawtucket resident cannot perform legal work on behalf of clients. But recently Wims penned a detailed article for the Rhode Island Bar Journal about her father's and other nuclear workers' cases explaining how to access a federal program designed to help defense workers afflicted with cancer.
The Attleboro plant manufactured nuclear fuel for the Navy from 1952 to 1967 and continued fabricating nuclear fuel for government research reactors until 1981. The TI complex later underwent a massive environmental cleanup and was converted into an industrial park.
Former TI workers who contracted certain types of cancer and meet other criteria can qualify for compensation and medical payments under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.
However, few workers knew about the program until The Sun Chronicle began publishing stories about the former nuclear site and U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-Brookline, raised questions about the company's response.
According to the U.S. Labor Department, which administers the program, at least 400 claims from former TI workers have been approved with payments totaling more than $35 million.
Hashway said neither she nor any members of her family suspected that her father's cancer might be work-connected until they received a letter from Texas Instruments Inc. in February alerting families to the availability of a federal program to aid former atomic workers with cancer.
"I don't think it had occurred to any of us that his employment had put him at risk," Hashway said. "In fact, until the letter arrived from TI and I did some independent research, I had no idea TI worked with nuclear fuel. I thought they made watches and calculators."
Hashway's article explains the working of the federal program set up to compensate defense workers who toiled at dangerous jobs, often without adequate knowledge, on vital Cold War-era weapons projects. The federal law offers compensation up to $150,000 to employees of government contractors, whose illnesses are as likely as not caused by exposure to radiation.
In 2010, the federal government designated the Attleboro plant as a "special exposure cohort" for anyone who worked at the location at least 250 days between 1952 and 1967, making it easier for those workers to obtain compensation.
Hashway and her siblings applied for and obtained approval on a claim they filed on behalf of their late father.
Cancer victims and their families do not need to hire a lawyer to apply for compensation or medical benefits. But Hashway said some families may choose to seek legal advice and guidance from a lawyer. She said she wrote the article to put information about the program into the hands of families and their attorneys.
"My hope is that everyone who qualifies for the fund is made aware of its existence, so that they can decide whether to pursue a claim," she said. "The process is pretty straightforward, but it can be complicated by the passage of time - medical records and other documentation may no longer exist. I hope local attorneys will assist those who may need help in submitting a claim, and I hope my article will provide a useful guide to the process."
Former workers and their families can apply for benefits by contacting the Department of Labor's New York Resource Office.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Compensating Life Downwind of Nevada

Priscilla, a 37-kiloton atom bomb, was detonated June 24, 1957, at the Nevada Test Site. It was one of a hundred atomic bombs detonated at the site, exposing communities across the United States to radioactive fallout. 

Compensating Life Downwind of Nevada 

By Miki Meek

Claudia Peterson has a vivid memory from her 1950s childhood in southern Utah. She remembers watching a glowing orange ball move off the western horizon while she rocked back and forth in her swing set the summer she was four, and walking past piles of dead lambs during lambing season. Some had two heads, and others had no legs.

Peterson remembers men in tidy, black suits visiting her classroom at East Elementary School in Cedar City with Geiger counters—and feeling a sense of pride that she lit up the counter when they waved it in front of her face. They told her it was from dental x-rays, but she knew she had never had one. She recalls sixth grade when one of her schoolmates died of leukemia, and eighth grade when bone cancer took first her friend's leg and then his life.
But there's one thing that doesn't come to mind—the government ever warning communities like hers in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and much of the United States that they would be heavily exposed to radioactive fallout from atomic bombs detonated at the Nevada Test Site. Between 1951 and July 1962, a hundred atomic bombs were detonated above ground there, 23 of them were larger than the one dropped on Hiroshima.
And nobody told Peterson that the government would one day compensate her family for her father's death from brain cancer, but wouldn't extend that same apology to her sister and her own six-year-old daughter. They didn't get the "right" cancer. Neither melanoma nor neuroblastoma, a rare nervous-system cancer, made the government's list.
After years of failed lawsuits and legislation, the government finally offered compensation to downwinders—radiation victims downwind of the test site—with the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). However, since Congress passed the act, in 1990, it has been hotly criticized by those living in states surrounding the site for limiting compensation to certain illnesses, years, and counties. For claimants to pick up their $50,000 compensation check, which barely covers medical bills for some, they must have been physically present in areas around the test site for at least two years between 1951 and 1958, or during 1962. They must also have one of 20 eligible diseases, which are mostly cancers of primary organs.
"It's a slap in the face to think that money will bring back a loved one or a breast after being treated like a guinea pig. But it's a bigger slap in the face to the brother, cousin, or neighbor across the street whose illness didn't qualify," Peterson says.
Dennis Nelson, director of Support and Education for Radiation Victims, has helped downwinders file their RECA claims with the Department of Justice for the past ten years and has seen it become a point of frustration for many families, including his own. Born and raised in St. George, Utah, Nelson was seven when atomic bombs with names like "Charlie" and "Baker" began exploding less than 120 miles from his home. But with safe assurances from the Atomic Energy Commission, his family thought they were unaffected.
They continued to eat vegetables from a garden irrigated with water polluted from fallout dust and drink fresh milk from the farmer up the street. They were unaware that scientists would eventually show that radioactive iodine 131 often entered the food chain through milk from cows that ate contaminated grass or feed, and increased the risk of thyroid cancer.
The Nelsons' health eventually began to unravel. In a family of seven, seven different kinds of cancers were diagnosed, including colon cancer, which claimed his sister Margaret two years after RECA was passed. But it wasn't on the list of compensable diseases at the time. And when Congress did amend the list, adding six other diseases to RECA in 2000, the Department of Justice still had nothing to offer Nelson but a rejection letter. He is ineligible because the law permits only parents, spouses, children, grandparents, grandchildren, and survivors to file. Nelsons' mother died of a brain tumor and his father of lung cancer before his sister, who never married or had children.
"RECA is too little, too late," Nelson says. "They can call it compensation, but people are dying before they can even get it."
Salt Lake City resident Mary Dickson did not die after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but she still won't get compensated. Although it's an eligible cancer, Salt Lake County isn't among 21 qualifying counties in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, even though fallout hit it harder than some counties within RECA's boundaries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"I'm glad that some type of legislation passed, but RECA was still a huge compromise," Dickson says. "The fallout didn't just hit a confined geographic area around southern Utah and stop. You can't put a fence around it."
The first federal reports mapping fallout paths over Salt Lake did not emerge until seven years after RECA passed. However, when the number of eligible counties was increased slightly by the amendments in 2000, Salt Lake County was not added.
Fred Allingham, executive director of the National Association for Radiation Survivors, believes it's because these reports also showed that fallout drifted all over the United States, making room for congressional arguments that expanding the program further would be too costly. The year after the amendments were enacted, 3,828 claims flooded in, compared with 854 in 2000. These new claims quickly exhausted funds, and the Department of Justice issued IOU letters for several months until Congress appropriated more money.
Anyone who has lived in the contiguous United States since 1951 has been exposed to radiation, according to a CDC report. Fallout from the Nevada Test Site, combined with nuclear tests conducted overseas by the U.S. and other countries, could ultimately be responsible for an additional 17,000 cancer deaths. The National Cancer Institute also estimates that the Nevada Test Site alone may be responsible for up to 212,000 cases of thyroid cancer.
The Cold War-era nuclear bombs were only detonated at the test site when the wind was blowing north-northeast, away from major cities in California and toward sparsely populated regions in states like Utah, Montana, and Wyoming.
But fallout wasn't the Cold War's only hazard. Many Americans were left sick and dying of lung cancer and other diseases after working in poorly ventilated uranium mines, contaminated with high levels of radon gas and toxic dust. These miners are eligible for $100,000 under RECA if they have one of six lung diseases linked to radiation exposure and worked between 1942 and 1971 in one of 11 qualifying states.
However, some miners, particularly Navajo, are having difficulty supplying necessary documents, even though declassified reports show that the Atomic Energy Commission knowingly sent them into hazardous conditions. Since the beginning of 2002, Melton Martinez, director of Navajo RECA Reform Working Group, has helped 200 uranium miners file for compensation, but only nine have received it so far.
He says the act "culturally discriminates" against Navajo because it requires claimants to provide detailed medical and work history records that many just don't have. From the 1950s through the ‘70s, many did not utilize Western medicine nor did they receive pay stubs, because employers paid them under the table.
"The government never told us about radiation and now they are making us jump over these hurdles," Martinez says. "But that's hard for these miners to do when they're carrying an oxygen bottle, confined to a wheelchair, or taking 15 different pills a day to keep themselves going."
He also feels that the law is flawed because it doesn't compensate other populations that were exposed to uranium dust. Martinez's own family has been plagued with health problems from living near a uranium mine in Haystack, New Mexico, that remained open for 30 years.
The National Research Council, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, is studying whether there is scientific evidence to support expanding illnesses, populations, and geographic regions in RECA, and the report is due on June 30, 2003. However, Claudia Peterson is skeptical that the government will take responsibility for her sister's and daughter's death anytime soon.
It took 39 years after "Able"—the first bomb to go off at the Nevada Test Site, in 1951— for the government to acknowledge some fault. And it took ten years after RECA passed to add amendments that included a few more counties, populations, and diseases. Peterson says she doesn't know how much longer some of her elementary school classmates, family, and friends will be around to wait.
"We've watched how quickly the government has put together compensation for 9/11 victims, and that has been a tough one to swallow," Peterson says. "What happened that day was horrible, but they are so quick to recognize what someone else did and shove under the rug what they've done to their own people. We were considered a low-use segment of the population then, and we still are now."
RELATED LINKSRadiation Exposure Compensation Program
Go to this site to learn about RECA and download claim forms.
National Cancer Institute: About Radiation Fallout
This website lists the full 1997 report on exposure to iodine 131 from atomic bombs detonated above ground at the Nevada Test Site, along with fact sheets, a dose calculator, and state and county exposures.
A Feasibility Study of the Health Consequences to the American Population From Nuclear Weapons Tests Conducted by the United States and Other Nations
Download the report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from this site.
National Association of Radiation Survivors
This website offers a summary of issues and legislative history regarding radiation victims.
Nevada Test Site
Visit this site to read detailed, historical reports on nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site.
BIBLIOGRAPHYGallagher, Carole. American Ground Zero. MIT Press. 1993

Miller, Richard L. Under the Cloud: The Decades of Nuclear Testing. Two-Sixty Press. 1999.

Miller, Richard L. The U.S. Atlas of Nuclear Fallout From 1951-1962 Vol. I: Total Fallout. LEGIS Books, 2002.

Ward, Chip. Canaries on the Rim: Living Downwind in the West. Verso Books. 2001

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Iodine-131 Fallout From the Nevada Test Site

Iodine-131 Fallout From the Nevada Test Site

In 1997 the National Cancer Institute (NCI) released the first nationwide study on exposure to radioactive iodine 131 (I 131), from 100 atomic bombs tests detonated above ground at the Nevada Test Site during the 1950s and 1960s.
Rain, wind, and the food supply spread I 131 from these tests across the United States, with the largest deposits immediately downwind of the test site and the lowest on the West Coast, upwind of the site. Exposure to released iodine occurred mainly during the first two months following a test. After that I 131 disintegrated to harmless levels.
Because I 131 accumulates in the thyroid gland, the NCI estimates that the fallout may have caused up to 212,000 cases of thyroid cancer in people who were exposed. The average cumulative thyroid dose to approximately 160 million people who lived in the country during testing was about two rads, about five times the radiation dose emitted by a mammogram. A rad is the measurement unit for the amount of radiation the body absorbs. The federal government recommends medical monitoring for people who have been exposed to ten rads or more.
Americans were exposed to varying levels depending on their residence, age, and food consumption. People who lived in Western states to the north and east of the site, such as Colorado, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and Utah, had the highest per capita thyroid doses, ranging from 9 to 16 rads. And children between three months to five years old in these high fallout areas probably received three to seven times the average dose for the population in their county because they had smaller thyroids and tended to drink more milk than adults.
Milk was a major exposure vehicle because I 131 fell on pasture grasses and then was consumed by cows. But an estimated 20,000 people who drank goats' milk during testing were at an even greater risk because it concentrates I 131 more than cows' milk. Thyroid doses to these individuals could be 10 to 20 times greater than to residents of the same county, who were the same age and gender, and drank an equal amount of cows' milk. Other pathways included inhaling contaminated air or ingesting tainted leafy vegetables, cottage cheese, and eggs.
However, the relationship between I 131 and thyroid cancer still isn't fully known. It makes up less than one percent of cancer cases nationwide each year and cancer registries do not indicate that fallout has caused an epidemic, although record keeping didn't start until the early 1970s.
— Miki Meek
© 2002 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.