05 February 2010

Chronic Beryllium Disease Rates Increasing Among Hanford Workers

This article will be on the desks of top U.S. Department of Energy officials in Washington, D.C., Friday morning.  Heart of America Northwest hopes that this increased pressure will result in an independent investigation of Hanford's beryllium protection program.

A total of 32 Hanford workers have been diagnosed with chronic beryllium disease, an incurable lung disease caused by the inhalation of fine beryllium dusts that settle in the lungs and cause damage.  Workers at Hanford are exposed to beryllium dust in some buildings because the beryllium metal was used in the production of fuel for some of the reactors.  The Tri-City Herald reports, "Workers with an allergy-like sensitivity to beryllium are at risk of developing potentially debilitating and fatal lung disease if exposed to fine particles of the metal."

The Hanford Advisory Board has been concerned about the beryllium protection program at Hanford, and is expected to issue advice instructing the Department of Energy to order an independent review of the program, rather than reviewing it internally.

Increasing rates of chronic beryllium disease at Hanford mean that the "status quo is not adequate," according to the Board.  Worker safety at Hanford is of utmost importance, and is something for which the Hanford Advisory Board and Heart of America Northwest have fought for decades.


  1. I thought the Richland Operations Office asked two of the top beryllium experts in the country to review the program? Dr. Lee Newman of Colorado School of Public Health and Dr. Martyny of Jewish National Medical Center? Aren't those two guys good enough? What is the Hanford Advisory Board's advice? I see criticism and opinion, but where's the advice?

  2. Great questions! If you want to look at the advice the Hanford Advisory Board agreed upon last week (Advice #228), you can download it as a pdf here: http://www.hanford.gov/?page=453

    Here's a quote, "DOE has not implemented previously agreed to recommendations from prior independent reviews..."

    So, the answer your question is that the beryllium program absolutely must be reviewed again, and DOE had better start moving on fixing up the program to protect Hanford's workforce.