Industry News | CWP

Care delayed, care denied?

December 23, 2019

December 23, 2019

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Industry News

Home health providers say changes in government regulations further complicate accessing care for former Rocky Flats workers

Tony DiGiallonardo doesn’t regret anything about his job at the Rocky Flats Plant, producing nuclear weapons parts for the federal government. His work in the R&D department was interesting — varied, not monotonous.

Plus, after working construction jobs, his last helping to build Rocky Mountain Arsenal, the pay at Rocky Flats was much better: $1.30 an hour when he first started in 1952.

“That was great money,” he says with a laugh, from his home in Longmont, which he built himself 60 years ago.

In the beginning, DiGiallonardo says, he would carry unprotected half and full shells of plutonium through the drafty tunnels between buildings, keeping the components near his abdomen for warmth.

“I always carried it on my right side and now you can’t even go 10 feet close to it without lead aprons and lead gloves and everything else,” he says. “You walked through the cold tunnel and that warm ball just kept you warm right there.”

It wasn’t until after he retired in August 1989 that he got sick. During his nearly four decades of work he was exposed to a variety of radiation and toxic substances, not only plutonium but uranium, beryllium and asbestos as well. It started in his lungs, and he’s since been diagnosed with berylliosis, or chronic beryllium disease (CBD), asbestosis, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), all diseases that slowly replace lung tissue with scar tissue and can be terminal. He had his first bout of cancer in the 1990s: colon cancer, requiring five rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to remove 17 inches of intestines. Later, he fought bladder and thyroid cancer.

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