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Advisory Board to NIOSH Votes to Expand SEC Class for Two Sites

August 29, 2019

August 29, 2019

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Industry News

The Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health held their 130th meeting in Oak Ridge, TN on August 21, 2019.  The Board advised the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) petitions and methods to reconstruct dose for radiation exposure.

An SEC petition for Y-12 was submitted to NIOSH November 2018.  This petition was to cover all workers between 1980 and 2000 for exposure to uranium.  NIOSH qualified the petition for only thorium exposure and agreed they could not reconstruct dose from January 1, 1977 and July 31, 1979.  NIOSH delayed reviewing certain later years until they received more information from Y-12 which may determine whether they can reconstruct dose.

The petitioner thanked NIOSH for recommending the short expansion of the SEC class.  However, he also raised a number of issues concerning the exposure issues.  He reminded the Board that the basis for his petition was because he has no internal monitoring records, despite working over 30 years at Y-12 and handling uranium on a daily basis for at least five of those years.  He explained to the Board members that he provided a report from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a memo from the Department of Energy (DOE) that the bioassay program nationwide was not adequate for monitoring uranium exposure.  The Board voted to expand the class from January 1, 1977 through July 31, 1979.  They also decided that a Work Group will be charged with investigating the uranium exposure as well as the years NIOSH delayed for thorium exposure.

West Valley Demonstration Project was also added to the SEC for years 1969 through 1973.  NIOSH initiated this petition because they determined they could not reconstruct dose.  The original petition was for years 1966 through 1973 but NIOSH believes they have sufficient bioassays to reconstruct dose. These work years, 1966 through 1968, will be evaluated further by NIOSH.  A board member noted that NIOSH’s report stated that there was very limited data for 1966. NIOSH stated that they didn’t want to hold up the employees covered under the 1966-1973 class.  The petitioner also questioned why NIOSH did not report how many claims were denied for these years, 1966 through 1968. NIOSH responded that there were 20 cases which were denied for this time period. The Board voted to expand the class NIOSH recommended but will continue to review the remaining years.

The SEC petition for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory Area IV (SSFL) was also discussed during the meeting.  A motion before the Board to deny expanding the class was tabled during the April 2019 meeting until Sanford Cohen and Associates (SC&A), the Board’s technical contractor, investigated the presence of americium and/or thorium at the site after 1988.  SC&A did not find any evidence of these radionuclides after 1988.  The petitioner, however, located DOE documents which proves that these materials were present at SSFL as late as 2008.  The Acting Chair (the former Chair, Dr. Melius, passed away in 2018) was surprised that new evidence was being submitted by the petitioner at this late date.  The Acting Chair suggested that the Board vote on the motion before them and accept NIOSH’s recommendation that they can reconstruct dose.  He then made an unprecedented request that the petitioner file a new petition using this evidence as the basis of the petition.  There was a prolonged discussion among the board members about this suggestion.  In the end, the Board voted to table the motion until such time the new evidence submitted by the petitioner can be evaluated by the Board’s Work Group.

There was a discussion on NIOSH’s Interim Final Rules concerning the ICD-10 codes.  A Board member raised the issue if the procedure was specific enough to capture specific cancers.  Look for more on this in a future Cold War Patriots’ blog.  The Rules change will be available for public comments.  NIOSH will need to respond to all substantive public comments.

NIOSH notified the Board concerning new developments with the Rocky Flats site.  NIOSH reviewed additional boxes housed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory at the Rocky Flats petitioners’ request.  They located one document that may be relevant to the SEC petition.  That document is still undergoing DOE’s review for release.  They also found another document which could place neptunium production past the current SEC class which ends December 31, 1983.  They plan to interview workers who may have knowledge about that process.

Future Board meetings:

  • October 17, 2019 – teleconference
  • December 11-12, 2019 – in person Oakland, Ca
  • February 19, 2020 – teleconference
  • April 22-23, 2020 – Location to be determined
  • June 24, 2020 – teleconference
  • August 26-27, 2020 – Location to be determined.

Presentations and background papers for this meeting can be found here.  Please note that the Board’s Subcommittee on Procedures Review report on internal dosimetry coworker data for the X-10 site was not presented during the meeting.  You can find that presentation here.