UW News

October 20, 1999

“Health of Hanford” discusses worker health, site conditions

The health of past and present workers and local residents will be among the topics that will be discussed Nov. 2 and 3 in Richland, Wash., during the annual “Health of the Hanford Site” conference sponsored by the University of Washington.

Other topics will include contaminated high-level waste tanks, beryllium exposure and evaluation of human and ecological health risks.

The third annual conference is an opportunity for scientists, contractors, workers, residents, tribal representatives and others to meet. They will exchange views, present research findings and discuss what should be done about the latest ecological, community and occupational health issues at Hanford.

Researchers say site workers and members of the public are welcome to attend. They will be able to learn directly about important research, while sharing ideas about further research that is needed. “We’re hoping for strong participation from the public,” says Dr. Tim Takaro, chair of the “Health of the Site” Organizing Committee and an acting assistant professor of medicine and environmental health in the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

“In Hanford, we’ve got the largest environmental cleanup effort in history happening right here in the Northwest. The conference is a great chance for people to learn about it, get involved and express their opinions,” Takaro says. Among those presenting at the conference are members of local research companies, university faculty and experts from national and state health organizations.

Among the scheduled topics:
* Two new studies that quantify the number of health problems that have affected a sample of former Hanford production and construction workers.
* A complete session on beryllium exposure and medical monitoring of former workers.
* The status of storage tanks that hold Hanford’s high-level nuclear waste.
* Efforts to reconstruct the amount of radioactive exposure in the area.
* Discussion about the “Hanford Openness Workshops,” to foster open decision-making at Hanford and across the Department of Energy.
* Transportation of nuclear waste.
* The condition of local insects and elk.
* How to assess Hanford’s effects on the Columbia River.
* The new Office of River Protection. Congress created the office to do something about high-level radioactive waste that’s leaking toward the Columbia River. The conference will look at how ORP may differ from previous efforts, how it can ensure success, and how its progress should be measured.

The meeting is supported through funding from the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, along with many co-sponsors.

The event takes place at the Red Lion Hotel, formerly the DoubleTree, in Richland. The cost for pre-registration is $25, or $40 if after Oct. 27. For information on attending, please call (206) 616-7377 or visit the conference Web site at http://depts.washington.edu/cresp2/hos.

On Nov. 1, there will be a course in Richland for medical providers, to share information about radiation exposure and the risk of thyroid disease. This is mainly aimed at primary care providers, other health officials and regulatory and government officials. The cost is $125. The sponsor is the University of Washington’s Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety. For more information, call (206) 685-3872.