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<-- LA Rocketdyne Nuclear Meltdown




APRIL 1999


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

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

James Cone, M.D. **
Occupational Health Branch, California Department of Health Services, Oakland, California

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

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 *
Professor Emeritus of Physics, Pierce College, Woodland Hills, 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.

NOTE: Dr. David Michaels served as co-chair of the Oversight Panel for much of the study until his appointment as Assistant Secretary for Health, Safety, and the Environment for the United States Department of Energy.



The epidemiological study of Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) workers was triggered out of two concerns: that workers on-site may have been affected by workplace exposures to radioactive and chemically hazardous materials and that releases of such materials from the facility may have harmed members of the neighboring community. SSFL workers operated nuclear reactors, handled plutonium and conducted rocket-engine tests. The events leading up to the establishment of the study included disclosures of a number of accidents involving nuclear reactors on the property, radioactive and chemical contamination affecting both on- and off-site areas, and a preliminary study suggesting elevated incidence of bladder cancers in census tracts closest to the facility that, although not definitive, pointed to the need for a full-scale investigation.

Since SSFL workers were expected to have higher exposures to the relevant radioactive and chemical materials than the nearby general population, it was decided that the appropriate next step was a detailed epidemiological study of the workers. If the study concluded there was no risk to workers, the issue of potential impacts on the neighboring community could also be put to rest. If the study did find deaths among the workers attributable to their exposures, additional follow-up study of the neighboring community might be in order.

The first phase of the worker study, released in 1997, found SSFL worker exposure to radiation appears to have increased the risk of dying from lung cancer, cancers of the blood and lymph system, and cancers of the upper-aerodigestive-tract (including cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, and stomach). The second part of the worker study, now being released, observed positive associations between occupational exposure to hydrazine (and/or other chemicals associated with rocket-engine testing) and the rates of dying from cancers of the lung, the blood and lymph system, and bladder and kidney.

In light of the results from both phases of the worker study, indicating that occupational exposures to radioactivity and hazardous chemicals at the site appear to have resulted in excess cancer deaths among the workforce, we recommend that a follow-up study of the neighboring community be conducted, if technically feasible. As a first step to that end an evaluation of possible approaches to such a community study should be performed.

In order to assure public confidence, we recommend that both the feasibility study and any actual community study be conducted, as was the worker study, under the auspices and direction of the Panel. Any independent contractor involved in the work should be selected and overseen by the Panel, as was the case with the UCLA team. We emphasize that it is important for the credibility of the follow-up work that it be kept independent of both the company and the governmental agencies that were responsible for regulating or sponsoring work at the facility. The next step is for the Panel, with a contractor it selects, as needed, to commence the feasibility study of various possible approaches to a follow-up community study. We recommend that the Panel be provided the financial resources necessary for it to continue and for it to be able to carry out those tasks.

The worker study was conducted on the premise that if it found no health detriment attributable to on-site exposures, no off-site follow-up study would probably be needed. However, both the radiation and chemical components of the study have found positive associations between exposure and the risk of dying from cancer. The commitment to the public was that, if that proved true, a follow-up independent study of the community would, if technically feasible, be conducted. We believe that commitment now needs to be carried out.


<-- LA Rocketdyne Nuclear Meltdown

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