Final Rules Issued to Assist Cancer-Stricken Nuclear Workers

May 2, 2002
The federal government is moving right along with its plans to compensate nuclear weapons facilities employees who are suffering from cancer as a result of workplace exposure to radiation.

The federal government is moving right along with its plans to compensate current and former nuclear weapons facilities employees who are suffering from cancer as a result of workplace exposure to radiation.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released two new rules that should help the government determine the exposure levels of former employees at nuclear weapons facilities to radiation and whether or not former workers suffering from various forms of cancer are ill as a result of workplace exposures to radiation.

"Methods for Radiation Dose Reconstruction" and "Guidelines for Determining the Probability of Causation," are part of HHS' responsibilities under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000.

The Department of Labor (DOL) will use these regulations in processing claims by current and former employees of nuclear weapons production facilities and their survivors who seek compensation for certain cancers caused by occupational radiation exposures, but who are not requesting compensation under the "Special Exposure Cohort" provisions of the Compensation Act. The Special Exposure Cohort includes workers who were employed at specific production or test sites designated in the Act.

"[These] rules establish strong scientific methodologies to help carry out this complex and important program," HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "These methodologies, which have been reviewed by the public, by scientific experts and by the independent Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health, will help to provide the civilian veterans of the Cold War or their survivors with claims assessments that are as fair, timely and equitable as possible."

The final rule on dose reconstruction establishes the methods that will be used by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in estimating claimants' past occupational exposures to radiation, in cancer cases referred to NIOSH by DOL.

Under an interim final rule issued for public comment last October, NIOSH began to conduct dose reconstructions for initial claims referred by DOL, pending public comment and completion of a final rule. Issuance of the final rule allows NIOSH to begin transmitting dose reconstructions to DOL, when completed, for use in processing claims.

The final rule on probability of causation specifies the scientific guidelines that DOL will use in determining whether it is at least as likely as not that an energy employee's cancer was caused by occupational exposure to radiation at nuclear weapons production sites. To the extent that the science and data involve uncertainties, those uncertainties will be handled to the advantage of the claimant. The two final rules are available online at Copies may be obtained by calling 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674).

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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