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SANTA SUSANA FIELD LABORATORY EPIDEMIOLOGICAL STUDY, PART II: EXPOSURES TO SELECTED CHEMICALS

<-- LA Rocketdyne Nuclear Meltdown

Download: EPIDEMIOLOGICAL STUDY (PDF)

SANTA SUSANA FIELD LABORATORY
EPIDEMIOLOGICAL STUDY:

REPORT OF THE OVERSIGHT PANEL

SEPTEMBER 1997

OVERSIGHT PANEL MEMBERS

Daniel Hirsch, Co-Chair *
Committee to Bridge the Gap, Los Angeles, California

David Michaels, Ph.D., Co-Chair *
Department of Community Health and Social Medicine, City University of New York Medical School, New York, New York

Jack Geiger, M.D. *
Department of Community Health and Social Medicine, City University of New York Medical School, New York, New York

Robert Goble, Ph.D. *
Center for Technology Environment and Development and Department of Physics, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts

Barbara Johnson *
Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition, Santa Susana, California

Caesar Julian, M.D. *
Simi Valley, California

Franklin E. Mirer, Ph.D. *
International Union - United Auto Workers, Detroit, Michigan

Ana Maria Osorio, M.D. **
Occupational Health Branch, California Department of Health Services, Berkeley, California

Gerald Petersen, Ph.D. ***
United States Department of Energy, Germantown, Maryland

Sheldon C. Plotkin, Ph.D. *
Southern California Federation of Scientists, Los Angeles, California

Jerry Raskin, Ph.D. *
Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition, Santa Susana, California

Robert Rinsky *
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio

Noah Seixas, Ph.D. *
Department of Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Alice Stewart, M.D. *
Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom

* Voting member.
** Non-voting member on the choice of the study contractor. Voting member on other matters.
* * * Non-voting member.

SANTA SUSANA FIELD LABORATORY EPIDEMIOLOGICAL STUDY: REPORT OF THE OVERSIGHT PANEL

The Study's Findings

The primary question the study was designed to answer was whether workers at Rocketdyne/AI's nuclear sites have experienced excess deaths from cancer associated with their work-related exposures to radiation. The answer is yes.

The study found:

  • Exposure of workers at SSFL to external (penetrating) radiation was associated with an elevated rate of dying from cancers of the blood and lymph systems and from lung cancer.

  • Cancer death rates for all cancers and for "radiosensitive" solid cancers were found to increase as external radiation dose increased.

  • Increased doses of internal radiation (i.e. from radioactive materials that were inhaled or ingested) similarly resulted in increased mortality rates for blood and lymph system cancers and for cancers grouped together by the investigators as the upperaero- digestive tract, including cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, and stomach. 27.3% of the cancer deaths among workers with measurable internal radiation exposures were attributable to their workplace exposures to radiation.

    The study results were primarily obtained by comparing higher exposed groups to lower exposed groups of the same worker population, which provides substantial power to the conclusions. Furthermore, although it isn't possible to completely rule out the possibility of confounding effects, the study found no evidence of any factor such as smoking or chemical exposure that could be responsible for the radiation impact seen.

    The study also examined several issues of broader implication regarding risks associated with radiation exposure, making the following important findings:

    • Although the cancer deaths at SSFL attributable to radiation exposure were dose-related, they occurred at doses substantially below those considered permissible by official U.S. and international regulatory bodies, thus raising questions about the adequacy of current regulations.

    • The excess relative risk of "low-dose" radiation was at least 6 to 8 times greater than risks previously assumed on the basis of atomic bomb survivor data.

    • There is an age effect - e.g., older adults (over 49 years old) are more at risk from radiation than younger ones for all cancers and for "radiosensitive" solid cancers, including lung cancers.

    The SSFL study lends support on many of these points to recent work by Steve Wing, and George Kneale and Alice Stewart. It is noteworthy that many of the important findings of the SSFL study could be made because of the long follow-up period - permitting the detection of long-latency cancers that appear many years after radiation exposure, which might have been missed in studies with shorter follow-up times, as well as permitting a better view of any age effect. This strongly argues for continued follow-up not only of the SSFL workers but of all radiation-exposed cohorts at other nuclear-related facilities, including many in which no or few effects had been found in studies of shorter follow-up duration.

    Download: EPIDEMIOLOGICAL STUDY (PDF)

    <-- LA Rocketdyne Nuclear Meltdown

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