smallRW.gif (2706 bytes) Department of Energy-Funded Early Lung Cancer Detection Unit Is Launched
PACE International Union and Queens College of the City University of New York Administer New Program

PADUCAH, KY., Oct. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- A new early lung cancer detection program for workers from the Department of Energy's three gaseous diffusion plants in Paducah, Ky; Portsmouth, Ohio; and Oak Ridge, Tenn., was introduced here today at the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy (PACE) Workers Local 5-550 union hall.

Within the past year, the DOE has admitted that the gaseous diffusion plant workers, in addition to employees at other nuclear weapons facilities, were not adequately protected from exposure to such toxic agents as asbestos, beryllium, mercury, radioactive materials, nickel, chlorinated solvents and other chemicals.

For gaseous diffusion workers, their occupational exposure to lung carcinogens such as asbestos, uranium, plutonium and beryllium makes them at high risk for developing lung cancer.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony today, a low-dose, computerized axial tomography (CT) scan was demonstrated. This new technology detects lung cancer more effectively than a chest x-ray and at an earlier stage when the disease is more easily treatable. A 40-foot custom-built mobile unit houses the state-of-the-art CT scanner that will travel between the union halls at the Paducah, Portsmouth and Oak Ridge gaseous diffusion plants.

The lung cancer screening will be offered to both current and former gaseous diffusion plant employees who meet pre-determined criteria for lung cancer risk. The medical screening is conducted independently of DOE and provides medical information directly to workers and their physicians. At least 2,000 former and current employees are expected to be screened during the next 12 months.

The lung screening program is a part of the Worker Health Protection Program (WHPP), a $7 million medical screening and education program funded by DOE and implemented by the PACE/ Queens College consortium. The PACE/Queens College program has screened 2000 nuclear weapons workers in the last 17 months. The goal of this program is to detect selected work-related illnesses at an early stage when medical intervention can be helpful.

"Early detection of lung cancer is essential to reduce mortality," said Dr. Steven Markowitz, director of the Queens College Center for the Biology of Natural Systems and the Worker Health Protection Program. "Only 12 percent of lung cancers are now detected early, but with this new CT scan technique, we expect to be able to diagnose up to 70-80 percent of lung cancers at an early stage. By finding so many more cancers at an early stage, we may dramatically increase the number of people who survive lung cancer and extend the life of others. Who deserves it more than workers who put themselves in harm's way in the service of their country?"

Speaking today at the Paducah ribbon-cutting ceremony were Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell; Kentucky Rep. Ed Whitfield; David Michaels, PhD, DOE assistant secretary of energy for environment, safety and health; Dr. Markowitz; James (Kip) Phillips, vice president and director of governmental affairs for PACE International Union; and David Fuller, PACE Local 5-550 president.

"Lung cancer is the most important specific cancer risk for workers at the DOE gaseous diffusion plants," said Phillips. "We are pleased the DOE is funding this new innovative program for nuclear workers, and are appreciative of the efforts of the DOE, Clinton administration and the bipartisan effort in Congress to secure this program." 

The Worker Health Protection Program also will make participants aware of the new workers' compensation program established by the U.S. Congress in legislation passed this past month. "Our program will work hand-in-hand with the new compensation program to ensure that DOE workers receive what they are entitled to," said Dr. Markowitz.  

PACE International Union represents 320,000 workers in the pulp, paper, oil, chemical, energy, automotive parts and cement industries. Background material on the WHPP program is available. PACE International Union,

SOURCE: PACE International Union


CO: PACE International Union; U.S. Department of Energy

ST: Kentucky

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Posted October 23, 2000.

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