The legacy of weapons grade plutonium production: Health status of Hanford complex workers who manage the waste


The extent and etiology of health effects in workers who maintain underground storage tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation (Hanford) have been subjects of controversy and concern for several decades. Hanford is a decommissioned nuclear production complex managed by the US Department of Energy in southeast Washington State. This integration-of-evidence review evaluates the relationship between exposure to vapors from mixed chemical and radioactive waste stored in underground storage tanks at Hanford and worker health. Hanford workers’ health information was gathered from technical reports, media reports, and published literature, including the systematic search of seven databases. This review describes the health status and health concerns of Hanford tank farm workers based on the integration of the available health effects data from disparate sources. In interviews with external groups, Hanford workers reported both irritant-type symptoms and diseases that they believe are attributable to tank farm vapors. However, the results of this integration-of-evidence review indicated that no pervasive pattern of occupational disease was identified that can be associated with exposure to tank farm vapors. Inhalation exposure to asbestos and beryllium is associated with lung disease from various types of nuclear industry work but not from work on tank farms. This review concluded that while irritant-type symptoms and isolated cases of occupational disease are plausible under certain conditions, the currently available data do not support a pervasive pattern of occupational disease associated with vapor exposure.

Authors: Debra Cherry, Elizabeth Friedman, Melissa Vincent, Andrew Maier
; Full Source: Toxicology and industrial health 2021 Apr 15;748233721996555. doi: 10.1177/0748233721996555.