by German Lopez
Researchers tracked more than 6,000 workers through 2004; salaried workers fared better
More than 18 years later, Hamilton County’s Fernald Feed
Materials Production Center is in the news again. This time, a study
found a correlation between higher rates of cancer mortality and hourly
workers, with some evidence of radiation causing intestinal cancer.
The study from the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health (NIOSH) found salaried workers fared much better than
hourly workers, and all-cause mortality was below expectations for them
despite increased malignancies in blood, bone marrow, spleen, lymph
nodes and thymus cells.
Hourly workers weren’t so lucky, according to the study. They had above-average cancer mortality rates in comparison to
the rest of the U.S. population, but tests only provided evidence for a
connection between hourly workers and intestinal cancer.
Previous studies also found a link between non-malignant
respiratory disease and exposure to radiation, but the NIOSH study found
no such connection. The discrepancy could be due to “improved exposure
assessment, different outcome groupings and extended follow-up” in the
NIOSH study, according to the study’s abstract.
The NIOSH study followed 6,409 workers who were employed
at Fernald for at least 30 days between 1951 and 1985, following them
Fernald was initially surrounded by controversy in 1984
when it was revealed that it was releasing millions of pounds of uranium dust
into the atmosphere, causing radioactive contamination in surrounding
areas. The controversy was elevated when Dave Bocks, an employee at the
factory, mysteriously disappeared and was later found dead at a uranium
processing furnace. Some suspected Bocks was murdered for allegedly
being a whistleblower, but no evidence of foul play was ever officially