The Paducah Sun

October 28, 1999

Limited illness found in study of ex-workers with uranium

By Bill Bartleman
The Paducah Sun

Some limited work-related illness has been found in former workers at uranium enrichment plants in Paducah; Portsmouth, Ohio; and Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Dr. Steven Markowitz, who is in charge of a study of the workers, said the limited findings so far indicate workers suffering from hearing loss, scarring on lungs caused by exposure to asbestos, and cases of emphysema.

He said those findings were not unexpected and so far have not been at extremely high levels.

Also, he said cancer in one former worker has been linked to asbestos exposure.

He did not know who the worker was or whether he was from Paducah, Portsmouth or Oak Ridge.

Markowitz said 450 people have been gone through the health screening since the program began last year.

The goal is eventually to test 15,000 current and former workers. Markowitz wants more funding from the U.S. Department of Energy so that the testing can be completed in five years.

A breakdown was not available on how many of those screened had worked in Paducah and what their test results showed, Markowitz said.

Although he said all levels of work-related illness are serious to those who have the illness, he didn't recall any extreme cases, other than the one who was diagnosed with cancer.

"There may be some other occupational lung diseases in those workers that we haven't defined yet," Markowitz said in a telephone interview from Queens College in New York, where he is a professor at the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems.

He said other diseases may be identified as medical officials continue reviewing results.