SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS Tables
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RADIATION WORKERS JUSTICE ACT OF 1998
IMMIGRATION AND CLAIMS
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
JUNE 25, 1998
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSerial No. 148
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COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois, Chairman
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEPHEN E. BUYER, Indiana
ED BRYANT, Tennessee
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
BOB BARR, Georgia
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCHRIS CANNON, Utah
JAMES E. ROGAN, California
LINDSEY O. GRAHAM, South Carolina
MARY BONO, California
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
CHARLES E. SCHUMER, New York
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, New Jersey
THOMAS E. MOONEY, Chief of Staff-General Counsel
JULIAN EPSTEIN, Minority Staff Director
Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCLAMAR S. SMITH, Texas, Chairman
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
ED BRYANT, Tennessee
JAMES E. ROGAN, California
MARY BONO, California
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
CHARLES E. SCHUMER, New York
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
ZOE LOFGREN, California
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
GEORGE FISHMAN, Chief Counsel
JIM WILON, Counsel
LAURA BAXTER, Counsel
MARTINA HONE, Minority Counsel
C O N T E N T S
June 25, 1998
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCOPENING STATEMENT
Smith, Hon. Lamar, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, and chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims
Atcitty, Thomas, President, The Navajo Nation
Chavez, Earl, Chairman, Cibola County Commission
Coultas, David B., M.D., Health Science Center, University of New Mexico
Dawson, Susan E., Department of Sociology, Utah State University
Fine, Lawrence J., M.D., Director, Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services
Freeman, Curtis, Utah Uranium Workers Council
Hicks, Paul, New Mexico Uranium Workers Council
Johnson, Roland, Governor, Pueblo of Laguna
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Lente, Larry, Tribal Councilman
Pasqual, Reginald, Governor, Pueblo of Acoma
Redmond, Hon. Bill, a Representative in Congress from the State of New Mexico
Remy, Donald M., Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, Department of Justice
Robinson, Paul, Southwest Research and Information Center
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Atcitty, Thomas, President, The Navajo Nation: Prepared statement
Bingaman, Hon. Jeff, a U.S. Senator from the State of New Mexico: Prepared statement
Cannon, Hon. Chris, a Representative in Congress from the State of Utah: Prepared statement
Coultas, David B., M.D., Health Science Center, University of New Mexico: Prepared statement
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dawson, Susan E., Department of Sociology, Utah State University: Prepared statement
Fine, Lawrence J., M.D., Director, Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services: Prepared statement
Freeman, Curtis, Utah Uranium Workers Council: Prepared statement
Hicks, Paul, New Mexico Uranium Workers Council: Prepared statement
Johnson, Roland, Governor, Pueblo of Laguna: Prepared statement
Pasqual, Reginald, Governor, Pueblo of Acoma: Prepared statement
Redmond, Hon. Bill, a Representative in Congress from the State of New Mexico: Prepared statement
Reed, Brandon: Prepared statement
Remy, Donald M., Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, Department of Justice: Prepared statement
Robinson, Paul, Southwest Research and Information Center: Prepared statement
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Material submitted for the record
RADIATION WORKERS JUSTICE ACT OF 1998
THURSDAY, JUNE 25, 1998
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims
Committee on the Judiciary,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:20 a.m., in Room 2237, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Lamar Smith [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Lamar S. Smith, Melvin L. Watt, Chris Cannon, Mary Bono, and Ed Bryant.
Staff Present: Cindy Blackston, Clerk; Judy Knott, Staff Assistant; and Martina Hone, Minority Counsel.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN SMITH
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH. The Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims will come to order.
This is an especially important hearing to us. I have an opening statement, the ranking member Mr. Watt will have an opening statement, and then we will proceed to our first witness, the Honorable Bill Redmond.
Today the subcommittee is conducting a hearing on H.R. 3539, the Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998, introduced by our colleague Bill Redmond. I would like to commend Congressman Redmond for his grass roots approach to developing legislation to address the community needs of his district. This bill is the result of an impressive coalition of local governments, tribal governments and affected citizens. Grass root coalitions like this one should be encouraged and supported as they work to resolve injustices.
I thank Mr. Redmond for his diligence in working to ensure that justice is served. H.R. 3539 would amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990. The 1990 Act provided payments to certain civilian individuals exposed to radiation between 1947 and 1971. Those individuals included underground uranium miners, individuals present at nuclear blast test sites and individuals who experienced fallout from those blasts in certain geographical areas known as downwinders.
Compensation is based on documented proof of the individual's presence in each location and on the occurrence of a select group of cancers and diseases associated with each type of exposure to radiation. In the case of uranium miners, they had to have experienced a certain level and length of radiation exposure as well.
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H.R. 3539 would expand the number of individuals who could receive payment under the act to include above-ground uranium miners and uranium millers. It would also make changes to the current act to address inadequacies in the program that have become apparent over time.
In 1995, the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments released its review of the history of radiation experiments and testing and made recommendations for appropriate government responses to their findings. There have also been several reviews by interested parties of the scientific data and of the effectiveness of the 1990 Act that have highlighted problems with that Act.
H.R. 3539 addresses the concerns noted by the Advisory Committee, as well as other problems with the Act that have been identified in the last 8 years. Today we will look at the current system to compensate uranium miners and at Mr. Redmond's legislation to improve upon that system.
We will hear testimony from the sponsor of the bill, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, scientific experts, representatives from the Native American community and uranium miners and millers themselves.
Mr. Watt is recognized for his opening statement.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to welcome Representative Redmond to the subcommittee and all of the folks who are here with us today to participate and observe the hearing. I suppose like the Soviet Union, the United States is continuing to find and discover some of the cost of the nuclear arms race, and we may continue to do that for years and years to come, just like the Soviet Union is continuing to do it.
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In order to win the arms race, our government needed uranium to build nuclear weapons and needed to test these weapons. Unfortunately, in the course of mining the uranium and testing the weapons, U.S. citizens were harmed because of their exposure to radiation. In 1990, this Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to provide compassionate payments to three classes of people; uranium miners, people on-site during above ground nuclear testing and people who lived downwind of an above ground nuclear test.
I think it is fair to say that all of us believe these compassionate payments are necessary and appropriate and that we want to make certain that everyone who is entitled to similar payments receive them.
Since its enactment, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act has been subject to some criticism, some of it probably justified. In response to that criticism, the Administration last year proposed legislation to Congress which would update the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act consistent with current scientific knowledge, and would make technical changes to the application process.
My understanding is that the legislation was sent up but was never introduced by anyone in Congress, and I would hope that we can find a way to reconcile the provisions of what the Administration has proposed with the provisions of Mr. Redmond's bill and move toward a reasonable resolution of this issue.
Representative Redmond is to be commended for introducing legislation which is the primary focus of today's hearing. Like the Administration's proposal, H.R. 3539, introduced by Mr. Redmond, attempts to update the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act and amend the application process. However, the Redmond bill goes further than the Administration's proposal by adding new classes of people entitled to compensation, such as uranium millers and new categories of illnesses and harms which would entitle someone to compensation.
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I applaud the efforts of Representative Redmond in championing this effort for his constituents, I hope that we are able to accommodate both his constituents' interests and accommodate the interests of the Administration in not creating a piece of legislation that is too broad. I hope we can work with Mr. Redmond toward that objective.
I will yield back the balance of my time, again commending Representative Redmond for the fine job he is doing.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Watt.
Are there any other opening statements?
If not, we will welcome our first witness, the Honorable Bill Redmond of New Mexico, and, Bill, if you would proceed, we look forward to your statement.
STATEMENT OF HON. BILL REDMOND, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO
Mr. REDMOND. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to testify before the subcommittee this morning on H.R. 3539. Mr. Chairman, it is without doubt that the individuals that were affected by the uranium mining over the last four decades have suffereda tremendous amount of human suffering has taken place. When I became the representative for this Congressional district, I knew absolutely nothing concerning the uranium miners. But the uranium miners themselves have taught me from their life situation, from the suffering that they have experienced and the stories of their life, being not only miners, but also millers and processors, the men and women who drove the trucks.
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They were poisoned by this uranium and the government knew. We had on file here official documentation from the United States Government demonstrating that the government knew that the uranium was toxic and was lethal in many cases, but yet the workers were not notified whatsoever. There were absolutely no provisions made for the safety of the miners. And basically, what this bill does is expand the 1990 Act to where all those who were affected in the process of uranium mining, all those who were affected by the uranium poisoning and the diseases created by the uranium poisoning, that they will be compensated.
There really is no amount of money that can compensate for the human suffering that has taken place or for the families that have lost their fathers or their grandfathers or their husbands or their sons. We have villages in New Mexico where virtually three generations of males are no longer with us. They died prematurely, some of them as early as four decades before their time. So a tremendous injustice has been done.
And, yes, the bill does expand and include new classes of individuals. For instance, the millers who had to handle the uranium itself, and those who mined in open pit mines above ground. They were just as close to the uranium as the people that mined underground. But the original bill only included those that mined underground, and then the regulations were written so stringently that you had to be born on the third Tuesday of the fourth week of the year in order to qualify.
The qualifications were so tight and so stringent that very few people that were affected by this were actually able to participate. I want to thank Mr. Paul Hicks, who is one of the leading advocates for the miners. Paul is with us today and will be giving testimony.
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Also I want to thank President Thomas Atcitty from the Navajo Nation, Governor Roland Johnson of Pueblo of Laguna and Governor Reginald Pasqual from Acoma Pueblo.
If you notice, a majority of the uranium miners were minorities and the attitude back in the '50's and in the '60's was that these were poor people, they were minorities, and it really didn't matter if they were exposed because of who they were ethnically. In my estimation, it was racism at its most blatant.
I would like to point out that there are many diseases that have taken place in the lives of the uranium miners. When I began to study this, I became ashamed of the fact that even though the government knew that uranium was lethal and that the activity of mining the uranium was dangerous, that the government was silent when they should not have been. They should not have been silent. We have villages where the whole male population has been eliminated from the village.
Now, in the construction of this bill we brought to the table individuals from the entire Four Corners region. I mentioned Acoma, Laguna, Pueblo, Navajo Nation, the Four Corners of New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona. And this bill was written by the grass roots people. When you read the bill, you hear the cries of the men and women that were the uranium miners and the uranium processors. Their constitutional rights were violated as a result of this.
And this is one of the unpaid costs of the Cold War. Now, our government has paid most of the costs for the Cold War over the last 30 years, but this is something that is a genuine cost, and we have asked these individuals and their families and those who suffered from the uranium diseases to bear the costs. So with all due respect, Mr. Chairman, I would encourage our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to study this, but not too long because they have been waiting many, many years, some as many as 30 years.
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And they can see very rapidly that an injustice has taken place between the Government of the United States and the uranium workers of the four states that were mentioned and that we should move as quickly as possible through this committee and on to the floor with H.R. 3539.
So, Mr. Chairman, again I would like to thank you for this opportunity to testify before the committee.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Redmond follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. BILL REDMOND, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO
Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing on H.R. 3539, the Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998, which I introduced on March 24, 1998. As you may know, I became intimately involved in this issue in November of 1997 when Mr. Paul Hicks, who will testify later today, passionately informed me of the dire circumstances many of the miners and millers, and the survivors of deceased miners and millers, face today because of our government's neglect of their pleas for justice.
After many meetings, conversations, and phone calls with the miners and millers of the Four Corners region, including a town hall meeting attended by 1500 affected parties, legislation was drafted to confront the glaring inadequacies of the 1990 legislation, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Prior to Mr. Hick's information, I had no real knowledge of this issue. But as I talked with Mr. Hicks and other miners and millers, on and off the Navajo reservation and the Acoma and Laguna Pueblos, I became shocked at what I was being told.
I was appalled and ashamed to find out that these American citizens were not told that they were being studied by our government as they mined uranium for weapons manufacturing in the interest of national security. I was appalled and ashamed to find out that our government failed to act to require the reduction of the uranium hazard when it could have easily been accomplished. I was appalled and ashamed to find out that on top of ALL OF THIS, the U.S. Government did nothing to warn the miners and millers of the potentially disastrous affect their job could have on their health.
50 years later, these miners and millers have still not been properly compensated for their injuries. At least several hundred of them have lost their lives to the hideous diseases that result from radiation exposure that they endured, unwittingly, in service to their country.
After learning all of this, you can see that I had no choice but to introduce legislation to right the wrongs our government incurred.
The bill you have before you today represents input from virtually every impacted party in the Four Corners region including: the Acoma and Laguna Peublos; the Navajo Nation; most of the counties and cities in the Four Corners Region of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado; and all of the miners and millers advocacy groups in the area.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If H.R. 3539 passes Congress ALL uranium miners, including above-ground miners, and uranium millers will be eligible for compensation under RECA. The bill will extend coverage to any miner or miller who worked in the mines and mills between the years 1942 and 1990. Currently, only individuals employed at the mines between 1947 and 1971 are eligible.
H.R. 3539 will expand current compensation coverage, which is presently limited to lung cancer and nonmalignant respiratory diseases, to include compensation for all medical conditions associated with uranium mining and milling. Under my legislation the compensation award would increase from $100,000 to as much as $200,000, and will reduce the radiation exposure requirement for claimants to 40 Working Level Months from its present 200 Working Level Months requirement.
H.R. 3539 calls for implementation of the RECA compensation claims process for Native American claimants to be consistent with Native American law, tradition, and custom. The current statute does not recognize the right of our native tribes to have their customs and traditions respected not only on the reservation, but in the American court of law.
Finally, and perhaps most fundamentally, H.R. 3539 will provide compensation to uranium miners and millers, whose constitutional rights were violated as a result of the mining, regardless of whether he or she suffers a radiation-related medical condition. The President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments fully acknowledged that ''[t]he grave injustice that the government did to the uranium miners, by failing to take action to control the hazard and by failing to warn the miners of the hazard, should not be compounded by unreasonable barriers to receiving the compensation the miners deserve for the wrongs and harms inflicted upon them as they served their country.''
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I now ask this committee and my colleagues elsewhere in Congress to accept this challenge and move towards the appropriate amendment of RECA, by ultimately passing H.R. 3539.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman and members of this committee.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Redmond, for your testimony.
First a comment and then a question. The comment is that you have sort of set the example for the rest of us here how to put together a coalition. And from what I have heard and read, you have brought together a wonderful diversity of individuals, all of whom have agreed that the Federal Government committed, intentionally or unintentionally, an injustice that needs to be rectified.
There are a lot of individuals who have lost their lives, who have lost their health and/or whose lives have been shortened as a result of actions taken. And so I can compliment you sincerely for not only bringing this to our attention, but for putting that coalition together.
My question may be answered later on by the various panels, but it was something you touched upon in your comments. Do you think that there was an intentional effort on the part of our government to conduct tests, to engage in certain activities that they knowingly and logically might have believed were going to harm individuals and cost them their health or their lives?
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Mr. REDMOND. I don't know if we can word it in terms of were there tests deliberately conducted. The point that I was making in my testimony is that the government knew from the official research that we had done, and we had documented the dangerous situation involved in the process of mining uranium. And while we were taking a look at workers rights and factories in other places in the United States, and we were improving safety through OSHA, we had a situation here where we knew that the uranium miners, the millers, the truckers, those that load and unload the trucks, that they were participating in dangerous activity and the government knew it, and they were silent.
Mr. SMITH. In some respects, this situation is not dissimilar from a situation we had a hearing on last week. This was a case where the Federal Government shot down some Blackhawk helicopters that were carrying American citizens and did so, I would say, not knowing that they were engaging in friendly fire that was going to cost the lives of Americans. But even though it wasn't intentional, an injustice occurred and we were trying to rectify that as well.
So in some respects, it doesn't matter whether it was intentional or not, the fact is that an injustice has occurred and you have rightfully introduced legislation to try to address that problem. I thank you for your statement again. And I will recognize the gentleman from North Carolina.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Representative Redmond, let me applaud you again for introducing a bill, and none of the questions I ask are designed to deal with that aspect of it. I am more concerned with the technical aspects of the bill. And so I have a couple of technical questions that I want to address to you, and they may be already dealt with, and I just am not aware of them, because it is a relatively new bill and we haven't really had a chance to analyze it in detail.
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Before I came to Congress, I did quite a bit of workers compensation representation on behalf of employees. How does this bill and the payments that are provided for under the bill coordinate with workers compensation? I assumeif I took North Carolina law, I don't know what New Mexico law says, but if I took North Carolina law, these injuries would be compensable under the North Carolina Workers Compensation Act as occupational diseases, to the extent that they were employees who sustained the injuries.
And it appears to me that if, at least under North Carolina law, they were pursuing a North Carolina workers compensation claim, the benefits would be substantially higher than the benefits provided under this bill.
Mr. REDMOND. We would be happy to raise them.
Mr. WATT. I am just trying toin New Mexico, have you done an analysis of howfirst of all, is there an offset for State workers compensation?
Mr. REDMOND. I will be quite honestyou know more about workers compensation having come from that sector or from that part of the private sector. Coming from 20 years as an ordained minister, I just know what is right and what is wrong. And these people have been wronged. To me it doesn't matter what the technicalities are. The bottom line is that a grave injustice was done by the Federal Government.
Mr. WATT. Part of that responsibility is to get them the maximum they can get, and if by paying these benefits we are undercutting some other benefits that might be more rewarding to the families, I think we need to try to address that in the legislation, and either have them offset or have a specific provision that says they do not offset, but they are intended to be in addition to those benefits.
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That is what the Judiciary Committee is supposed to dotry to make sure that those kinds of things don't slip through the cracks.
Mr. REDMOND. Sure. I would be happy to work with the gentleman on that particular issue. And if there are additional benefits that can be awarded as a result of this, I am sure that my constituents in New Mexico and our neighbors in Arizona, Utah and Colorado would be happy to see that. But I think that we need to be very careful that we don't get tied up for a number of years.
Mr. WATT. I understand that.
Mr. REDMOND. Many of these people have been waiting for 30 years, and I would be very leery of anything that would start an enormously large process.
Mr. WATT. I understand that. But I am not talking about prolonging the process. We want to take a very close look to make sure we get the maximum benefit, and there may be somebody on a subsequent panel who will be able to answer that. But if we can't get it addressed, we will try to address it here.
And I was talking to Representative Bono yesterday about our colleague Representative Sonny Bono, how he used to make fun of lawyers, but we finally convinced him that lawyers do play some constructive role in life, and the Judiciary Committee plays some constructive role when it does its job. And this is one of those constructive roles where we can take a piece of legislation that has a good intent and possibly make it even better in the long run.
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Mr. REDMOND. I would join the gentleman in making the legislation better.
Mr. WATT. One other technical question. Just to be sure about your intent. The language on page 6 of the bill seems to me at first blushdon't worry about the technicalities of it, it seems to me at first blush that it would potentially go beyond injuries from radiation. And I just want to be clear whether that was your intent or not.
Are you intending to cover just radiation injuries under this bill? I assume you didn't intend to go beyond people who were injured from things other than radiation, because there is some language here that says ''not otherwise compensable under subsection A arising out of or in the course of the individual's employment,'' which is standard workers compensation language, but covers injuries such as arthritis, a back injury or injuries that clearly would not be related to radiation.
And I just want to make clear whether you did or did not intend to go beyond that.
Mr. REDMOND. I thinkand I would have to take a look at that particular portion and see, because my staff helped in the construction of the language. But let me give you an example. We have, say, an individual that had smoked when he was 19 years old but hasn't smoked in the last 30 years, one of the questions in qualifying is, have you ever smoked. And if he answered honestly and answered yes, he is no longer qualified, but his body is still contaminated with uranium toxicity. So I think that language was meant to be fair to those individuals and perhaps others.
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Mr. WATT. Okay. So we should justbut your intent is not to go beyond radiation injuries, you just want to make sure that no radiation injuries get left out under some other subterfuge, and if we try to work on the language and clean that up to make that clear, I think that would serve all of our purpose. Again, one of those unique responsibilities that the Judiciary Committee has that we sometimes take seriously, sometimes we don't.
Mr. REDMOND. Sure. And one of the issues that I think we need to take into consideration is also cultural sensitivity to the Native American and the Hispanic populations of the area. For instance, one of the qualifications for the wives to receive the compensation was that they had to produce a marriage certificate. Well, many of the wives in the communities they didn't present them with marriage certificates at the time they were married. It is not culturally necessary for the couples in that area.
Mr. WATT. We got common law marriages, too.
Mr. REDMOND. They jump the broom, yeah. It is a matter of who is there to see it and do you have a photo. But just because you don't have a photo and there is nobody there to testify doesn't mean that you didn't jump the broom.
Mr. WATT. I agree that we need to be sensitive to that. I understand I have used more than my share of time and I appreciate the responses and I yield back.
Mr. REDMOND. Thank you.
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Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Watt. Your comments were enlightening on two counts. I learned something about Mr. Bono that I didn't realize. I never did hear him say something nice about lawyers.
Mr. WATT. He was softening quietly behind the scenes. He never would acknowledge it publicly, but we were bringing him around. It is good to know.
Mr. SMITH. The gentleman from Utah, Mr. Cannon, is recognized.
Mr. CANNON. Thank you, I would like to submit a little statement for the record if I could.
Mr. SMITH. Without objection, it would be made a part of the record.
[The information referred to follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. CHRIS CANNON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF UTAH
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: I am pleased that we are able to meet today on this issue. I am very familiar with the current Radiation Exposure Compensation Act and my district staff has worked diligently with Mr. Redmond and his office to examine substantive and positive changes we can make to the Act.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition, I am pleased that several individuals from my own state of Utah have been able to join us for this hearing.
I look forward to hearing about the recent studies conducted by Dr. Dawson and Dr. Madsen from Utah State University, and, in today's fourth panel, from Curtis Freeman who represents the Utah Uranium Workers Council, a group that has most recently formed in my district, which for many years was the location of significant uranium mining and milling.
Thank you for scheduling this hearing, Mr. Chairman.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. CANNON. Let me say to Mr. Redmond, I appreciate the bill. My staff has worked with his staff on it. And I think it addresses an important issue that I hope we can move forward. And to those people from Utah, Dr. Dawson and Dr. Madsen, and Mr. Curtis Freeman, who has come out from Utah, my district, to testify, I appreciate that.
Unfortunately, I have a markup that I am going to have to be in and out for, so I won't be here for the full testimony, but I look forward to hearing what these people have to say and examining this issue. I have had a lot of personal and family experience on the issue and hope that we can advance the cause today.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Cannon.
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The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Bryant, is recognized.
Mr. BRYANT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to thank you for holding this very important hearing and also Representative Redmond, who is sponsor of this amendment. I think he has done an outstanding job in bringing to the sunlight this inequity that exists out there and under the law. And I think you are doing a great job in moving this.
I think, as Congressman Watt mentioned, there are some questions that we have as attorneys on this. And I think he did a good job of pointing out how we want to work to ensure that this inequity is corrected in a fair way. And two ways that we do that would be to make sure that the benefits that would be available under thisunder your very good legislation would be coordinated with any existing issues out there, and he pointed out workers' comp as an example.
And in varying states, you have offsets and some have it as exclusive remedies, and it just depends, and we want to ensure that if it is supplied, that it does not cut in any way other benefits that might be available. And, likewise, in applying this fairly, I think I heard the end of the chairman's remarks, alluding to the otheranother claim that was made for helicopter shoot-downs, that we do this fairly and not expand beyond the intent of this bill, which I understand would be all the diseases related to the radiation and not get into, as Mr. Watt pointed out, extending the statute of limitations on back injuries and things that would not be related.
So it is our job as a subcommittee and as a full House Judiciary Committee to hone this legislation and to make sure that it accomplishes again the very fine purposes that you raise it for. But again, I simply want to commend you for bringing this to our attention and bringing us what appears to be a very good amendment under certainly appropriate circumstances.
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Mr. REDMOND. Thank you.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Bryant.
The gentlelady from California, Mrs. Bono.
Mrs. BONO. I really just want to agree with what my colleagues are saying, except for Representative Watt on the lawyer bit. He still has a long way to go until he has proven to us that you are not suspect.
In any event, I again just echo what they say, and I look forward to working with the subcommittee on honing the bill and hearing their sentiments. I have to agree with them completely. Thank you.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mrs. Bono.
Mr. Redmond, thank you for your testimony. And you are welcome to stay, and I hope and expect that you will, and listen to the rest of the testimony as well.
Mr. REDMOND. Thank you.
Mr. SMITH. If our first panel will come forward and take their seats. They are: from the Department of Justice, Donald M. Remy, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division; and from the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Lawrence J. Fine, Director, Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Welcome back Mr. Remy. You were here last week on another subject, and we appreciate your presence here as well Dr. Fine, and we look forward to your statement.
STATEMENT OF DONALD M. REMY, DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CIVIL DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Mr. REMY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this morning concerning H.R. 3539. At this time, Mr. Chairman, I have submitted a written statement that I ask to be entered into the record.
Mr. SMITH. Without objection, it will be made a part of the record.
Mr. REMY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
H.R. 3539 proposes changes to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act program which my office, the Torts Branch of the Civil Division, administers. We find some of these changes problematic and, therefore, cannot support enactment of the bill.
The Attorney General has been committed to administering a program that meets Congress's goals of providing humanitarian compensation to a unique group of Americans. These people, dedicated citizens and their families, sacrificed their health and safety to contribute to defending the national security in the crisis that existed during the Cold War. Thankfully, because of their efforts, the threat of hostile nuclear weapons to all Americans is not nearly as likely as it was only a generation ago.
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Congress appropriately recognized the need to compensate these patriots and created a system whereby those demonstrating the existence of congressionally mandated medical conditions could apply for a compensation award. I am proud to report to this subcommittee that since 1992 my office has received almost 6,500 claims, approved nearly half of those claims, and distributed nearly $250 million to eligible beneficiaries.
Further, we have received and responded to over 15,000 inquiries through our program and our toll free telephone number. In addition, during the spring and summer we provide outreach to affected communities, especially Native American communities, assisting prospective claimants by participating in informational meetings. We have done all of this with minimum cost to the American taxpayers.
Admittedly, it is difficult to measure the success of any claims program system because many of those who apply will not be compensated. One possible measure of the procedural mechanisms has been the number of applicants that have exercised their constitutional right to seek redress through the Federal courts. To date only 7 of the 3,000 denied claims have appealed their Radiation Exposure Compensation Act decision to a United States District Court judge.
We agree, however, that the time has come for Congress to start the process for improving the present act. Last year the Administration submitted a proposal to Congress that the Department of Justice believes best improves the current law.
H.R. 3539, on the other hand, has many deficiencies. For example, if enacted, H.R. 3539 would include uranium millers and open pit miners in the program, even though to our knowledge there currently is insufficient research that supports extending the program to these groups. A joint Army-HHS study is underway regarding the efficacy of including uranium millers.
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Also, some of the provisions do not require claimants to establish any association whatsoever between radiation exposure and individuals' conditions. There is a provision to compensate individuals because of, and I quote, ''intended exposure for government research,'' even though we are aware of no credible evidence that miners or millers were employed specifically for the purposes of studying the effects of radiation.
These and other provisions of H.R. 3539 discussed in my written statement engage in speculation and ignore conclusive scientific evidence. The Administration's proposal, alternatively, would in large measure adopt the findings in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act committee report.
It also focuses on concerns such as childhood leukemia, male breast cancer and salivary gland cancer. It would eliminate unsupported requirements like low coffee assumption for pancreatic cancer and the limitations for silicosis and pneumoconiosis. Moreover, the important distinction between smokers and nonsmokers would be retained for lung cancer until further study is conducted.
I would also like to make one further note, and that is, we internally continue to critically evaluate our operations and look for more efficient ways to carry out the program. To that end, the Attorney General has approved changes in our regulations that would make it more effective.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will answer any questions from the subcommittee.
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[The prepared statement of Mr. Remy follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF DONALD M. REMY, DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CIVIL DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to appear before the Subcommittee today to discuss the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Program and present the views of the Department of Justice on H.R. 3539, the ''Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998.'' H.R. 3539 would amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act in many significant respects, some of which I hope to discuss this morning.
Because many of the proposed changes are unnecessary or unsupported by scientific evidence, we oppose H.R. 3539. In short, it is a costly proposal that appears to go well beyond the initial intent of Congress. Specifically, some of the issues that most concern the Department include: expanding compensation to uranium millers and above ground miners (Sec. I (c)(3)); lowering the exposure requirement and eliminating the smoking distinction (Sec. 3 (d)); providing compensation solely based on inclusion in a government study (Sec. I(c)(4)); providing compensation for unspecified medical conditions (Sec. 4); allowing insufficient tests to serve as exclusive diagnostic tools in proving medical eligibility (Sec 4(g)(3)); changing the standard of proof (Sec. 5(a)(1)); and, permitting multiple compensation payments (Sec. 6). Together with the other provisions of the bill, many of which are discussed below, they create a programnot based in either reason or science that will cost the American taxpayer at least $2 billion.
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I would like to begin my comments today by providing some background to the Subcommittee. On October 15, 1990, Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, 42 U.S.C. §2210 note, which provides for compassionate payments to individuals, or their surviving beneficiaries, who contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases as a result of their exposure to radiation released during above-ground nuclear weapons tests or as a result of their exposure to radiation during employment in uranium mines. The Department is committed to Congress's goal of implementing a Program under this Act that provides humanitarian compensation for those Americans that sacrificed for the U.S. during the national security crises of the Cold War. The administrative procedures established in the regulations implementing the Act are designed to utilize existing records so that claims can be resolved in a reliable, objective, and non-adversarial manner, quickly and with little administrative cost to the United States or to the person filing the claim.
There are three categories of claimants: uranium miners, downwinders, and onsite participants. The Act specifies a payment of $100,000 for eligible uranium miners, $75,000 for eligible onsite participants, and $50,000 for eligible downwinders. Before a claim can be approved three eligibility criteria must be established: exposure to radiation, existence of a compensable disease, and identification of the proper party to file a claim.
To date, we have received 6490 claims. Of these, 2992 claims totaling $220,822,321 have been approved, 3239 have been denied, and the remaining 259 are pending. Further, of the denied claims only 7 have been appealed to federal district court. None of the Departments decisions has been reversed in district court. These numbers reflect the positive experience the Department has had with this program since it began receiving and paying claims in April, 1992. The Radiation Program is an efficient program that is easy and inexpensive for applicants to utilize.
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Nonetheless, the Program can be improved and the Department is willing to support justified modifications, such as those supplied in the Administration's bill submitted to the Congress last year. (Attached). Upon examining the suggested changes in H.R. 3539, however, we found an overall lack of scientific rationale or investigation to justify key proposals. H.R. 3539 is very broad with far-reaching consequences. Accordingly, I will discuss only the basic issues today; however, my lack of comment concerning any particular proposal does not reflect Justice Department approval.
I. INCLUDING URANIUM MILLERS AND ABOVE GROUND MINERS UNDER RECA.
Presumably, the rationale for including uranium miners and above ground miners in the Act is an assumption that they were also exposed to radiation-related hazards. Although it has been asserted anecdotally that their exposure to radiation was just as dangerous, if not more so, than that of underground uranium miners, there are insufficient scientific studies to support that contention.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the United States Army Environmental Hygiene Agency (USAEHA) collected data to study jointly the effects of uranium mining. Because that study has not yet been completed, it would be premature to speculate on possible outcomes at this time.
II. COST ANALYSIS.
The following represents an approximate, conservative, preliminary review of the budget effects of H.R. 3539. It does not include claims by individuals who can establish the existence of more than one condition or who apply for compensation because they were part of a government study group.
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EFFECT OF PERMITTING MULTIPLE AWARDS.
If enacted, H.R. 3539, Section 6, would allow multiple awards for eligible claimants. Currently, RECA permits only one compensation payment per category of claims (uranium mining, downwind, or onsite exposure) on behalf of an eligible individual. Under the proposed section, claimants are limited in the number of compensation payments they may receive only in that they cannot receive more than one compensation payment for any specific disease. The most profound fiscal effect of this provision would be found with uranium miners' claims.
First there would be no prohibition for individuals filing separate claims for each of the non-malignant respiratory diseases (NMRDs). Because the documentation to establish such diseases is quite similar and can occur simultaneously, some miners could qualify for multiple payments. Moreover, with the provisions in Sections 4(d), (e), and (f) permitting compensation for claims relating to any ''medical condition associated with uranium mining or milling,'' ''human research,'' ''death not otherwise compensable,'' and ''injury or disability not otherwise compensable,'' many miners could qualify for one or more payments under these sections alone. These payments would be in addition to payments received for proof of one of the specific compensable diseases otherwise fisted in the Act.
III. REDUCING THE RADIATION EXPOSURE REQUIREMENT TO 40 WLMS OR ONE YEAR OF EMPLOYMENT AND ELIMINATING THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN SMOKERS AND NON-SMOKERS.
If enacted, H.R. 3539 would reduce the qualifying levels of exposure for uranium miners to 40 WLMs or employment in underground uranium mines for at least one year, if they contracted a compensable disease. We question the appropriateness of this approach.
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Numerous factors contribute to whether an individual's employment in underground uranium mines is, more likely than not the cause of a particular illness. The President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experimentation (''President's Advisory Committee'') did preliminary research into this issue and found that further research was necessary. As a result, the RECA Committee, comprised of government scientists and attorneys, was established to study the Act. In considering risk analysis, the RECA Committee concurred with the President's Advisory. Committee that the BEIR (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) -IV/NCI model is the best available tool by which to judge whether RECA criteria fairly compensate lung cancer claims. The RECA Committee adapted the BEIR-IV/NCI model, included more recent data from Colorado Plateau and New Mexico cohort studies, and derived risk models based on the most current scientific findings which take into consideration a number of variables.
In its analysis of available data, the RECA Committee found that no single exposure figure, whether it be 40, 200, 300, or 500, establishes a precise point at which it is more likely than not that a uranium miners' exposure was the cause of lung cancer. The risk model used by the RECA Committee indicates that 40 WLMs is sufficient exposure to wan-ant compensation for lung cancer only under certain conditions. Specific variables that affect the relative risk of lung cancer have been considered, including: age at diagnosis, exposure, time since last exposure, and smoking history. Thus, for a sub-population of miners, such as non-smokers diagnosed with lung cancer at a certain age within a certain period after last exposure, 40 WLMs could be sufficient exposure to justify a presumption of causation. Providing compensation in every case based on exposure to only 40 WLMs, however, ignores accepted scientific research techniques that take into account other relevant risk factors and background rates of incidence.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The same rationale applies when using duration of employment as the measure of radiation exposure. As with WLMs, there is no single duration of exposure which can appropriately represent a point at which it is more likely than not that all uranium miners' exposure was the cause of their lung cancer. Using duration of employment to establish exposure is further complicated by the fact that exposure levels varied significantly between different time periods. In other words, a duration of employment between 1950 and 1955 typically would result in greater exposure than an equal duration of employment between 1965 and 1970. Thus, when establishing duration standards, the differences in average exposure levels during the course of the underground uranium mining boom is a variable which should be considered in addition to the other multiple variables discussed in the paragraph above.
In cases of lung cancer, an important variable in determining causation of this disease is smoking. After careful consideration, the RECA Committee determined that the most appropriate risk model to be used for the purposes of RECA would be one which accounts for the sub-multiplicative effect between exposure to radon progeny and smoking. This position is supported by the conclusions of the RECA Committee utili2ing the NO analysis and the Colorado Plateau and New Mexico cohort studies. Using a single exposure figure or duration of employment to represent the presumptive level of causation for all miners ignores significant risk factors, such as smoking, within various sub-populations of the entire at-risk population.
Admittedly, the current levels are not perfect. In establishing the current criteria of 200, 300, and 500 WLMs, however, Congress consulted with leading scientific and medical experts. Because of the various exposure conditions which are currently believed to be associated with NMRDs, such as silica, diesel exhaust, dust, and other particles and gases, it is difficult to isolate the causal factors of those diseases. Moreover, it is unclear if smoking and age will affect relative risk. Thus, in the absence of sufficient scientific findings linking specific exposure to certain diseases, we find no justification at this time for replacing the current exposure criteria for miners with NMRDs.
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IV. EXPANDING THE COVERED PERIOD FROM 19471971 TO 19421990.
The legislative history of RECA reveals that the period 19471971 is the appropriate time frame for coverage. Since underground uranium mines were required to comply with federal radiation standards in 1971, and the Government was no longer purchasing uranium ore at that time, there is no reason to expand the Act's coverage beyond that date. Similarly, there is a sound justification for commencing the Act's coverage in 1947. That was the year the Atomic Energy Commission was formed and began contracting for the domestic procurement of uranium. The federal government maintained its unique position as the sole-source customer of uranium ore for most of the period between 1947 and 1971.
Prior to 1947, the U.S. Government was not a major customer of domestically produced uranium ore, and, thus not in a position to influence operations of uranium mines. Moreover, because the dangers of radon exposure were largely unknown prior to 1947, the lack of federal regulations concerning radon exposure prior to that time is not indicative of careless public administration. As such, for the purposes of compensating individuals harmed as a result of past government policies, or lack thereof there is no reason to believe that culpable action occurred on the part of the U.S. Government prior to that time.
V. OTHER COMMENTS:
A: Sec. 1(c)(2) asserts that the documentation required to establish an individual's uranium mining history is ''too burdensome and unfair.'' To the contrary, the Program allows for claimants to provide a wide variety of contemporaneous documents to establish employment in underground uranium mines. Some of those records include Social Security Earnings Statements, company records, and tax statements. Additionally, the Program has access to databases such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Colorado Bureau of Mines, the University of New Mexico School of Medicine Study of Uranium Miners, and the St. Mary's Hospital Study of Uranium Miners. In cases where individuals operated their own mines, the Department also has records of the Atomic Energy Commission to verify employment.
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B: Sec. 4(e) proposes compensation for individuals who were employed in underground uranium mines without ''knowledge or informed consent, and who were intentionally exposed to radiation for the purposes of testing research, study, or experimentation by the Federal Government or any agency thereof to determine the effects of such exposure on the human body . . .'' Mines and mills were operated for the purpose of producing uranium, not for the purposes of studying the effects of radiation on humans. In every instance where studies were conducted, study teams were examining individuals who were already employed and whose employment was in no way created for the purpose of such research. Had the studies never occurred, conditions in the mines and mills would not have improved over time. The exposure suffered by mine workers was an unfortunate result of their employment, the purpose of which was to procure uranium ore for weapons production during the Cold War national security crisis.
This provision also provides for compensation based exclusively on participation in a government study. The criteria for eligibility under this portion includes either exposure which occurred ''for the purposes of testing, research, study or experimentation,'' or ''death, not otherwise compensable under section 5(a), arising out of or in the course of the individual's employment.'' Thus, this provision provides compensation for anyone who was involved in studies conducted by ''the federal government or any agency thereof'' while employed in uranium mining or milling activities. The Act presently compensates only individuals who contracted specific diseases following their exposure to radiation. It does not provide compensation for exposure alone. Accordingly, we believe that Sec. 1(c)(4) and Sec. 4(e) of H.R. 3539 should not be enacted.
C: Sec. 4(d) seeks compensation for any ''medical condition associated with uranium mining or milling,'' while Sec. 4(e) and (f) propose compensation for all uranium miners and miff workers based on death, injury, or disability ''not otherwise compensable under subsection (a), arising out of or in the course of the individual's employment.'' Sec. 4(g)(3) defines the term ''other medical condition associated with uranium mining and milling'' as meaning ''. . . any medical condition associated with exposure to radiation, heavy metals, chemicals, or other toxic substances to which miners and millers are exposed in the mining the milling of uranium.'' As noted above, we are unaware of any studies conclusively establishing a relationship between specific diseases and above-ground uranium mining or milling activities. The proposals to include any conditions ''associated with mining'' and causes of death ''not otherwise compensable'' have no scientific basis, whether for uranium workers in general or uranium miners specifically. In act, the proposals do not even suggest a causal relationship between specific conditions or diseases and mining or milling activities. The diseases for uranium miners fisted in the original Act were included only after considering the results of various studies of uranium miners. At the very least, the proposals to include conditions ''associated with mining'' and ''not otherwise compensable'' are non-specific. With such open-ended definitions, the Program would have difficulty denying claim filed for any type of illnesseven those unrelated to exposure. When scientific studies reflect that additional diseases should be considered, that evidence should be reviewed appropriately by the experts.
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D: Sec. 4(g)(1) proposes that a ''working level'' (WL) represent the exposure a miner would receive during a month's worth of work, based on a six-day week. Thus, a WL would represent 192 hours of exposure (8 hours per day X six days per week X four weeks 192 hours of exposure per month). The proposed changes, however, are not necessary. Currently, a WL is based on 170 hours per month, which accounts for a five-day work week with 10 hours added to the monthly total. When calculating WLMs, the Department does not normally subtract time for vacations, holiday, sick leave, break times, or other minor periods of above-ground work that likely occurred during periods of employment as a uranium miner. Thus, our calculation already accounts for significant periods of exposure beyond what an individual would have experienced while working a regular 5-day work week. Finally, in creating the implementing regulations, the Department consulted with experts at NIOSH. Based on NIOSH's recommendations, the Department utilized the same definition of a working-level as is used by uranium miner cohort studies at NIOSH/PHS.
E: Sec 4(g)(3) seeks to include compensation for exposure that occurred in ''any underground excavation, including 'dog holes', as well as open-pit strip, rim, surface, or any other above-ground mines, where uranium ore or vanadium-uranium ore was rained or otherwise extracted.'' This section should not be enacted for at least two reasons.
First, as stated previously, there is insufficient evidence establishing a fink between above-ground uranium mining (including open-pit, strip, rim, and surface mines) and specific diseases. Second, the Act specifies that compensation be paid to those who were exposed to radiation while employed in ''underground uranium mines that were providing uranium for the primary use and benefit of the nuclear weapons program.'' See 42 §2210 Section 2(a)(3). Subsequently, the Federal Regulations defined an underground uranium mine as ''an underground excavation, regardless of the means of access, the primary or significant purpose of which was the extraction of uranium ore.'' 28 CFR 79.31(b). The bill would broaden the definition of a uranium mine by excluding the term ''primary or significant purpose of which.'' This is problematic because traces of uranium can be found in other types of mines, where low-grade strands may exist, and where it is not the material being sought. In such cases, uranium may be brought up with other materials being mined even though it is not the target of the mining efforts and is never sold, processed, or refined due to its low-grade. Moreover, such mines were not producing ore for the AEC or the nuclear weapons program. In cases where mines produced sufficient amounts of uranium ore to be sold, regardless of other ore being produced, the uranium would have been purchased by the AEC, which would be recorded in AEC operator and shipping records. Exposure would be; considered for individuals employed in such mines under the current Act.
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As for ''dog holes,'' exposure in small underground mines is already compensable so long as the primary or significant purpose of the mine was to extract uranium ore. During the uranium boom, hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals dug small underground adits into the ground while prospecting for uranium. This was often done to see if outcroppings of uranium which were visible on the surface lead to further ore bodies in the ground. If no uranium was found and mined, then radiation exposure would not have occurred. Therefore, employment under such circumstances should not be included for purposes of compensation.
F: Sec 4(g)(3) would apparently allow living miners to prove their medical eligibility by providing one of the following records reflecting specified results: 13-readings; high-resolution computed tomography (''HRCT'') scans, pathology reports; pulmonary function tests (''PFTs''); or arterial blood gas studies (''ABGs''). Thus, according to the proposed amendments, live miners could establish their medical eligibility by merely providing qualifying PFTs and ABGs. This provision has insufficient medical or scientific basis. PFTs and ABGs, which are useful in measuring impairment, to our knowledge are not sufficient for use as a tool in diagnosing structural changes within the lungs consistent with compensable non-malignant respiratory diseases. Impairment reflected in PFTs and ABGs can be symptomatic of numerous respiratory conditions, only a tiny fraction of which can be considered mining related. The current Federal Regulations, which were created based on the recommendations of experts including those at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (''NIOSH''), require that each live miner must provide qualifying ABGs or PFTs in addition to a chest x-ray and two B-readings in order to establish the existence of a compensable disease. The amendments should require either PFTs or ABGs in addition to one of the following records: chest x-rays and 13-readings; HRCT scans; or pathology reports.
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G: Sec. 5 (a)(1) states: ''All reasonable doubt with regard to whether a claim meets the requirements of this Act shall be resolved in favor [of] the claimant.'' This is a totally different standard than the current preponderance of the evidence and more difficult to administer. It is not possible to use both standards to evaluate claims, using whichever one benefits a claimant most in. each case. To assure uniformity, only one standard should be used: by a preponderance of the evidence. This common standard best serves the needs of a compensation program whose hallmark is ease of administration and consistent application of the law.
H: Sec. 5(a)(2) proposes the use of ''affidavits and other documentary evidence, including medical evidence, to the same extent as permitted by the Federal Rules of Evidence.'' The Federal Rules of Evidence are designed to be used in an adversarial forum. If this section is enacted it will change the complexion of this quick and non-adversarial program.
I: Sec. 5(a)(2) also proposes that radiographs submitted by claimants be considered ''conclusive.'' Because subsequent provision provides for ''a fair and random audit procedure,'' it is unclear what ''conclusive'' implies. If ''conclusive'' implies that such documentation shall outweigh other medical evidence which would otherwise establish by a preponderance of the evidence that a claimant did not contract a compensable disease, then this provision is problematic and thus, should not be enacted. Moreover, the provision is not reasonable if it implies that the Department could not seek further documentation if the information submitted raised additional questions about a claimant's health. Although the Program is non-adversarial, some scrutiny must be allowed in order to address reasonable concerns and protect the integrity of the process. In many cases, medical conditions of claimants are difficult to ascertain. In others, we often receive conflicting information, including situations where findings from sensitive diagnostic tests challenge the findings of less-definitive evidence provided to establish the disease.
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J: Sec. 5(a)(5) would amend the current appeals' process by allowing the Department only 90 days in which to review and make a final determination on denied claims which are appealed. This provision would be a detriment to claimants. Currently, significant latitude is given for the submission of new or additional evidence for claims on appeal. We allow multiple opportunities for claimants to provide further documentation for their claims, which is not standard procedure for an appeals process. If forced to render an official decision within 90 days, the Department will be unable to offer such leniencies to claimants, and the appeal process could entail nothing more than a review of the claim as it existed when the claim was denied.
Sec. 5(a)(5) also proposes that a claimant be awarded a compensation payment if a decision has not been reached on a claim within 12 months. This section is similarly problematic. Claims that require more than 12 months for review are either at the request or with the consent of the claimant, or to resolve a particularly complicated issue. In fact, the Administration's bill suggests that the 12 month limit provided for initial filings be removed. By allowing more than 12 months, maximum benefit would go to claimants for review of claims. Part of our regular procedure is to assist individuals, particularly those filing without the assistance of an attorney, to gather the documentation necessary for their claims. The majority of the processing time is spent helping claimants establish their eligibility.
K: Sec. 5(b)(2) would require the Department to set qualification results of PFTs based on ethnic-specific standards. However, the Department recommends against this for several reasons. Initially, there is insufficient confidence in the data obtained in the limited studies on this subject to incorporate such a distinction into a legal compensation scheme. Additionally, acceptable PFT standards do not exist for all the major ethnic groups within the uranium mining population. Further, the current Act and regulations provide an alternative means by which to establish functional impairment: arterial blood gas studies. Any inadequacies that may exist in the PFT standards can be avoided entirely with arterial blood gas studies, which are unaffected by physiological differences among ethnic groups.
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As noted at the onset, the Department believes that many of the provisions of this bill are premature, unsupported by medical evidence, or otherwise imprudent. For these reasons the Department cannot support enactment of H.R. 3539.
I appreciate the opportunity to present the Department's views on H.R. 3539, and would be happy to answer any questions at this time.
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Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Remy.
STATEMENT OF LAWRENCE J. FINE, M.D., DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF SURVEILLANCE, HAZARD EVALUATIONS AND FIELD STUDIES, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Mr. FINE. I am Dr. Larry Fine, Director of the Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, a research division within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The mission of NIOSH is to conduct research and make recommendations to protect workers from illnesses and injuries related to their work.
I will focus my remarks on what is known about the health effects associated with uranium milling and mining, and briefly describe current NIOSH research in this area. I am also submitting for the record a summary of the NIOSH scientific research and policy documents pertaining to uranium millers and miners.
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I first would like to talk about uranium miners. The health effects of underground uranium mining have been very well studied. In fact, all of the epidemiological data on uranium miners pertain to underground miners. NIOSH has studied a group of uranium miners employed in the Colorado Plateau in the 1950's. At least 10 other studies of uranium miners have been done in other countries.
The epidemiological evidence that uranium miners experience an increased risk of lung cancer is very strong. The most recent follow-up of the U.S. miner cohort found nearly a sixfold increased risk for lung cancer for white miners and a threefold increase for Navajo miners. Both smoking and nonsmoking miners have an increased risk of lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer among underground miners is thought to be primarily due to their exposure to radon decay products; this is the product of radioactive breakdown of naturally occurring radon.
Radon decay products accumulate in the closed environment of underground mines. In 1987 a NIOSH criteria document recommended that mine operators limit exposure to radon decay products to the lowest level possible, and further recommended an upper limit of one working level month per year.
NIOSH acknowledged that even at the recommended exposure limits, significant health risks were expected. The Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, which was created by President Clinton in 1994 to review the ethical issues and the government radiation research, recommended that the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act be reviewed to determine whether the documentation standards for compensation should be changed.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As a result of this recommendation, a committee of government scientists and attorneys was established to study the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act provisions relating to uranium miners. The final report of the committee was submitted to the Human Radiation Interagency Working Group in July 1996. NIOSH considers that report an excellent summary of the scientific data.
Uranium miners also have an excess risk for nonmalignant respiratory disease, including silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and tuberculosis. The most recent follow-up of the U.S. white miner cohort found a nearly 24-fold increased risk for pneumoconiosis compared to the general population, a 3.7-fold increased risk for tuberculosis and a 2.8-fold increased risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The Navajo miners had a 2.6-fold increased risk for tuberculosis and a twofold increase for pneumoconiosis and other respiratory diseases. Some of these nonmalignant respiratory disease excesses are due to silica and other dusts in the mining environment.
Other cancers which have been found to be elevated in some studies of uranium miners include leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, cancer of the kidney and cancer of the liver. However, a recent analysis of 62,000 uranium miners and 11 studies across the world found no strong evidence that uranium miners had increased risk of any cancer other than lung cancer.
Uranium millers. Millers have not been well studied. Potential exposures in uranium mills differ from those in uranium mines. Although radon decay products are generated in uranium mills, they do not accumulate to the very high levels observed in mines. Health concerns for uranium millers center on their exposures to uranium dust and silica. Exposures to silica and relatively insoluble uranium compounds may increase the millers' risk of nonmalignant respiratory disease, while exposures to relatively soluble forms of uranium may increase their risk of kidney disease.
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The two mortality studies of uranium millers have not had adequate population size or adequate time since exposure to detect a moderate elevated risk of lung cancer if it was present. Neither study reported an elevated risk for lung cancer. One of the two completed mortality studies of millers found an increased risk for cancer of the lymphatic and blood forming organs; the other found an increased risk for nonmalignant respiratory disease.
There have been two medical studies of uranium millers, one of which found evidence for pulmonary fibrosis, possibly due to previous mining, and the other of which found evidence for kidney damage. There are no studies of the health effects among former above-ground uranium miners.
NIOSH has two studies underway to learn more about the health effects of uranium milling. We are updating the mortality experience of the larger of the two previous mortality studies, and this should provide much-improved information about the risk of lung cancer. We also have a cooperative agreement with the University of New Mexico to conduct a medical study among uranium millers.
That concludes my testimony. I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Fine follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF LAWRENCE J. FINE, M.D., DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF SURVEILLANCE, HAZARD EVALUATIONS AND FIELD STUDIES, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
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I am Dr. Larry Fine, Director of the Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, a research Division within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The mission of NIOSH is to conduct research and make recommendations to protect workers from illness and injury related to their occupations. I will focus my remarks on what is known about the health effects associated with uranium mining and milling and briefly describe current NIOSH research in this area. I am also submitting for the record a summary of NIOSH scientific research and policy documents pertaining to uranium millers and miners.
The health effects of underground uranium mining have been very well studied. In fact, all of the epidemiologic data on uranium miners pertain to underground miners. In the United States, NIOSH has studied a group of uranium miners employed in the Colorado plateau in the 1950's. At least 10 other studies of uranium miners have been done in other countries. The epidemiological evidence that uranium miners experience an increased risk of lung cancer is very strong. The most recent follow-up of the U.S. miners cohort found nearly a 6-fold increased risk for lung cancer for white miners and a 3-fold increased risk for Navajo miners. Both smoking and non-smoking miners have an increased risk of lung cancer.
The risk of lung cancer among underground miners is thought to be due primarily to their exposure to radon decay products, that is, the products of the radioactive breakdown of naturally occurring radon. The unit of exposure is the working level month (WLM). One working level (WL) is any combination of short lived radon decay products in 1 liter (L) of air that will ultimately release 1.3 X 105\million electron volts (MeV) of alpha energy during decay to lead-210. The number of WLM is the product of the radon decay products concentration, in WL, and the exposure duration, in months. Radon decay products accumulate in the closed environment of the underground mines. In 1987, a NIOSH criteria document recommended that mine operators limit exposure to radon decay products to the lowest levels possible, and further recommended an upper limit of 1 WLM per year. NIOSH acknowledged that even at the Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) of 1 WLM, significant health risks are expected.
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The Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, which was created by President Clinton in 1994 to review ethical issues in government radiation research, recommended that the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act be reviewed to determine whether the documentation standards for compensation should be changed. As a result of this recommendation, a committee of government scientists and attorneys was established to study the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Provisions relating to uranium miners and the Department's implementing regulations. The ''Final Report of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Committee'' was submitted to the Human Radiation Interagency Working group in July, 1996; NIOSH considers that committee report an excellent summary of the scientific data.
Uranium miners also have an excess risk for non-malignant respiratory disease, including pneumoconiosis (silicosis), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and tuberculosis. The most recent follow-up of the U.S. white miners cohort found nearly a 24-fold increased risk for pneumoconiosis (when compared to the general population), a 3.7-fold increased risk for tuberculosis and a 2.8-fold increased risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The Navajo miners cohort had 2.6-fold increased risk for tuberculosis and a 2.6-fold increased risk for ''pneumoconioses and other respiratory diseases''. Some or all of these nonmalignant respiratory disease excesses are due to silica and other dusts in the mine environment.
Other diseases which have been found to be elevated in some studies of uranium miners include: leukemia, non-Hodgkins' lymphoma, malignant melanoma, and kidney and liver cancer. However, a recent analysis of 62,209 uranium miners in 11 studies around the world found no strong evidence that uranium miners had increased risk of any cancer besides lung cancer.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCURANIUM MILLERS
Uranium millers have not been well studied. Potential exposures in uranium mills differ from those in uranium mines. Although radon decay products are generated in uranium mills, they do not accumulate to the high levels observed in mines. Health concerns for uranium millers center on their exposures to uranium dusts and silica. Exposure to silica and relatively insoluble uranium compounds may increase the millers' risk of non-malignant respiratory disease, while exposure to relatively soluble forms of uranium may increase their risk of kidney disease. The two mortality studies of uranium millers have not had adequate population size or adequate time since exposure to detect even a moderate risk of lung cancer if present; neither study reported an elevated risk for lung cancer. One of the two completed mortality studies of millers found an increased risk for cancer of the lymphatic and hematopoietic organs (excluding leukemia), and the other found an increased risk for non-malignant respiratory disease and accidents. A non-significant excess in deaths from chronic kidney disease was also observed in the second study. There have been two medical studies of uranium millers, one of which found evidence for pulmonary fibrosis (possibly due to previous mining) and the other of which found evidence for kidney damage.
There have been no studies of health effects among former above-ground uranium miners.
NIOSH has two studies underway to learn more about the health effects of uranium milling. We are updating the mortality experience of the larger of the two prior mortality studies; this should provide much improved information about the risk of lung cancer. We also have a cooperative agreement with the University of New Mexico to conduct a medical study among uranium millers. NIOSH has also awarded a grant to the University of Southern California, School of Medicine to refine dose estimates and reexamine dose response relationships for the Colorado miners cohort.
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Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Dr. Fine.
Mr. Remy, let me direct my initial questions to you. Of course you have an unenviable job today trying to defend the government and the government's action in the past.
A witness asked this question, which to me sort of condenses everything into one very good question, and let me ask you to answer it. The witness says, quote, ''Why does the government spend untold millions of dollars hauling off and covering up mill tailings and other hazardous sites to protect the public from dangerous radiation and then say millworkers are not exposed to any radiation? If it is dangerous to the public, it must have been dangerous to the millworkers.''
What is your response to that question?
Mr. REMY. Mr. Chairman, I am not familiar with the programs designed to haul off the material of which you speak.
Mr. SMITH. Just the logic is what I am talking about here.
Mr. REMY. Let me respond by saying this: When Congress enacted the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, it did so upon the basis of numerous scientists' testimony on the potential effects on various individuals in certain circumstances, including underground uranium miners, downwinders and on-site participants. At that time and at this time, there is no conclusive evidence that would demonstrate that those individuals who were uranium millers or above-ground uranium miners would have been subjected to similar exposure.
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Mr. SMITH. If there was no evidence, why were precautions taken in regard to the general public, and why isn't there a similar acknowledgment that it might have been dangerous to the millworkers themselves? Was the government just wasting its time taking precautions to protect the public?
Mr. REMY. No, I don't believe so at all.
Mr. SMITH. If they weren't, then why weren't the millworkers in equal or a greater danger from the substances?
Mr. REMY. Once the United States recognizes that there is a potential danger, hopefully it will, with all expedience, take actions to try to rectify that.
Mr. SMITH. I would assume that they recognize that there was a danger or they wouldn't have taken the precautions to protect the public.
Mr. REMY. Notwithstanding the fact that there is a recognition that there is a danger, Mr. Chairman, I would submit that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate how these particular individuals could potentially have been affected by their employment in the uranium mills, to include them in this compensation program.
Mr. SMITH. We are going around in circles here. Let me go on, but simply say to you that it seems to be pretty conclusive that if the government is worried about the public, it should be equally worried about the millworkers themselves.
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At the very end of your testimony a minute ago you said that the department was prepared to recommend some changes in regulations. To what were you referring, and could you go into some detail as to what those changes would be?
Mr. REMY. Certainly. The department had issued for public comments some changes in the regulations to implement the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, from which we received a number of comments which we are trying to get together to put out. One of the specific issues that I would like to refer to is one that Congressman Redmond mentioned in his statement or perhaps in an answer to one of your questionsthat individuals who check a box that they were smokers in the claim form would be denied compensation under the act.
One of the changes in the regulations would eliminate that potential happenstance, and would provide that those individuals who perhaps started smoking when they were 15 but then had not smoked for the last 15 years would be treated similarly to those who are nonsmokers.
Mr. SMITH. So you think you can be helpful at least in regard to those individuals?
Mr. REMY. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you. My last question, Dr. Fine, is for you. I was trying to understand what your testimony was and whether or not some of the points that you made would support the standards for eligibility in the bill that we are considering. Did not some of your comments support standards that are in this legislation?
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Mr. FINE. That is really a complex question that really involves issues both of policy, you know, and of science. I think that the committee report that I mentioned in my testimony, which addressed several specific questions about criteria and proposes some specific criteria in terms of lung cancer, both based on duration and level of exposure, we think is the best scientific summary, you know, of the information. That really explains what we best know about the risks at different levels and different durations of exposures to underground uranium miners.
Mr. SMITH. Have any studies been done on above-ground miners that you are aware of?
Mr. FINE. I am not aware of any health studies of above-ground miners.
Mr. SMITH. Okay. What percentage, very quickly breaking into percentages for me the percentage of the whole that worked underground and the percentage of the whole number of miners that worked above ground.
Mr. FINE. I am sorry, Congressman, I really don't know the answer to that question.
Mr. SMITH. Okay. Mr. Remy, do you know the answer to that?
Mr. REMY. I am sorry?
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Mr. SMITH. What percentage of the miners worked above ground versus below ground?
Mr. REMY. No, Mr. Chairman, I don't know the answer, but I would be happy to supplement the record.
[The information referred to follows:]
SUPPLEMENT FOR THE RECORD FROM DONALD REMY
The number of underground miners is approximately 20,000. The number of above ground miners is approximately 10,000.
Mr. SMITH. Okay. I thank you.
The gentleman from North Carolina is recognized.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me just ask, Dr. Fine, the timing on additional studies that are being done with respect to millersmillers, millworkers, what are they called?
Mr. FINE. Millers.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WATT. Millers. What is the expected timetable for completion of your study or your department's study?
Mr. FINE. It is a few years. We have been working hard to get the study under way, both our own mortality study and the study that the University of New Mexico hasthat we have a cooperative agreement with them which we awarded in December 1997. We have been trying to obtain personnel records from which to identify potential study participants. Some companies have been extremely cooperative in providing access to the records.
Mr. WATT. I am interested in that, but I am trying to go somewhere else. I am not questioning the timing. I just wanted to know how far away we were.
Mr. FINE. It will be a few years.
Mr. WATT. So what happens if at the end of the day your study concludes that there is an increased riskwe waited three more years and the folks who would have been eligible for this payment, some of them are dead, some of them are worse off. I guess that is my question, concern about waiting that period of time. Since I asked Representative Redmond, I have subsequently found out that these payments really stack on top of workers' compensation benefits.
Then just kind of putting myself back in the real world, and every once in a while I try to do that, the way this would work, I take it, is a workers' compensation hearing would be conducted. The plaintiff, the employee, would come in and would present evidence at that workers' compensation hearing that his or her injury was an occupational disease resulting from uranium exposure, and there would be a burden of proof in that workers' compensation case, and he would either meet that burden of proof or he would fail to meet it.
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What if we put a standard that says this payment gets paid on a finding that has been made by a workers' compensation commission or whoever the judicial body is that makes that determination, that says that in that case the threshold has been met? Now that doesn't go as far as this language goes.
This language compensates everybody within a particular time frame who makes a claim, whether they have met any threshold or haven't met any threshold. We havewe have jumped the threshold, so to speak, if we pass this bill, by saying that everybody who was employed, who files a claim, gets this payment whether they have proven exposure or whether they have not proved exposure.
So I guess my question to you is, to you and Mr. Remy, would that be a workable way to approach this, to require some proof somewhere, or am I just deluding myself?
Mr. REMY. Mr. Watt, are you asking the question with respect to the uranium millers and the above-ground miners?
Mr. WATT. Yes.
Mr. REMY. First let me say that I think perhaps that type of approach might go beyond the intent of the program as it was originally designed by Congress to provide humanitarian payments to individuals who were in specific circumstances described by the act. And as you mentioned yourself, those payments are designed to be paid.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WATT. But, I mean, the original purpose was to get people who were downwind. They were not employees necessarily. It wasn't even limited to employees, but we are talking about employees now, and we are talking about making a payment to them on top of what they would be entitled to under workers' compensation laws, right?
Mr. REMY. Yes, and that is currently the way that the system works, as you mentioned in the opening of your remarks.
Mr. WATT. Don't you compensate nonemployees now under this act? How do you make a determination of which employees you compensate? Is one of the factors you consider whether they have been eligible for workers' compensation benefits?
Mr. REMY. No, it is not. The structure is simply to determine whether the individuals had been exposed under the circumstances.
Mr. WATT. So it is conceivable, then, that you could pay this benefit and they could still be denied State workers' compensation benefits?
Mr. REMY. I suspect that is conceivable. The program is not designed to work hand-in-glove with State workers' compensation systems.
Mr. WATT. All right. I am just exploring ways here to try to make this happen. I mean, I am concerned about sitting waiting for three more years. I am especially concerned about waiting for three more years to compensate employees who have made a factual showing in a judicial context under workers' compensation law that their exposure was in factdid, in fact, result from thisfrom conditions on the job.
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With respect to that category of people, there has been a determination already made that they had increased risk. Now, I may be wrong, but I take it a doctor came in and said, ''It is my medical judgment that it was''; another doctor came in on the other side and said, maybe, ''It is my medical judgment that it wasn't,'' all the same doctors that are now testifying before your commission, probably, that it will take 3 or 4 years.
All of this, a lot of this, based on my experience, is medical judgment and speculation; judgment, speculation, two different concepts, but the same theory. But if somebody has gone through a process and some judge has made a determination that they were in fact exposed and they are entitled to benefits, why shouldn't they be eligible under this program, at least I mean for that small category of people?
Mr. REMY. Well, Mr. Watt, we are willing to work with the Congress to develop appropriate amendments to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to assure that those people that should be entitled to compensation will be entitled to compensation and will receive that compensation. So to the extent that we have extended our olive branch to Mr. Redmond to work with him to develop a bill that we collectively believe is appropriate, we will take that into consideration.
Mr. WATT. Okay.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Watt.
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It sounds like the hearing is already having an effect. We are pleased to hear you say that you will work out those situations with Mr. Redmond. I have a question to ask you, Mr. Remy, on behalf of Mr. Redmond.
This goes to the situation where you have uranium workers who, because the businesses that they worked for are no longer in existence, have difficulty producing the documentation to prove that they were in fact working in the industry, but who still have the uranium-related diseases, how does the Administration propose remedying the situation in regard to those people?
Mr. REMY. Currently, Mr. Chairman, we go to great lengths to allow claimants to provide us with any information that indicates where they worked, when they worked, the time period that they worked at that particular industry. So to the extent
Mr. SMITH. Do you accept affidavits from individuals, or do you require hard documentation that may not be available in some cases?
Mr. REMY. In some cases we do accept affidavits to fill in the gaps, but not in all cases. Certainly you can understand that if there is other information available, the affidavit might not be the most appropriate means by which to present that evidence. If we allow every claimant to simply provide an affidavit, then I think we would do a disservice to the Administration of the program.
Mr. SMITH. Okay. Haven't you, in regard to the claims that have been filed, haven't you been denying about 50 percent of them, something like that?
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Mr. REMY. I would like to look at it as we have been approving about 50 percent of them, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH. I think we are interested in the 50 percent that have not been approved.
I don't have any other questions. I will just close with the same comment I made a while ago, and that is, it seems to me if the downwind public are at risk, the millers are equally at risk, if not more so, and I hope you keep that in mind. Thank you, Mr. Remy.
Mr. WATT. Can I just ask one more question?
Mr. SMITH. Yes. The gentleman from North Carolina is recognized.
Mr. WATT. Give me some kind ofone or two examples of howof the bases on which you deny claims.
Mr. REMY. One reason for denying a claim is if there is insufficient medical evidence to demonstrate that the individual has a compensable disease.
Mr. WATT. So that is the same standard essentially that might be applicable in the workers' compensation context?
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. REMY. Yes, it is.
Mr. WATT. Okay. And the
Mr. REMY. Although
Mr. WATT. The information is not available because our department hasn't completed its studies. It is going to take three more years, so we have got to wait on that to happen?
Mr. REMY. That is with respect to the uranium millers and miners. I would like to add, though, that our system is a nonadversarial process.
Mr. WATT. I am not trying to make it adversarial.
Mr. REMY. It is really not akin to workers' compensation.
Mr. WATT. There is a separate adversarial process under some parts of this. There is a separate adversarial process which is playing itself out. And based on what I have heard here, one could win in that adversarial process and still have his or her claim denied in your nonadversarial process, and that seems to be patently unfair.
And that is, you know, that is a small category of people, I concede, but it is more people than are now being compensated. It just seems to be that with respect to those people, once there has been a determination in an adversarial process that they are eligible, then your process ought not to be finding something contrary to that. A nonadversarial process, you know.
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Mr. REMY. If I may, I would just like to take one moment, Mr. Chairman, and respond to that. One thing I would like to make clear is that I doubt very seriously if under the current program someone who had gone through a workers' compensation process for the same injuries and was deemed eligible for compensation would be denied compensation under this program for the diseases that are compensable.
What I am suggesting is that for diseases that are not compensable under the program, or if there are uranium millers or miners, they are not covered under the current program and therefore that would create that type of scenario.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Remy.
You have noticed a couple of members leave. They have votes going on in other committees, and they will be back after they cast those votes. We thank you both and appreciate your testimony.
Mr. REMY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FINE. Thank you.
Mr. SMITH. Our second panel consists of Dr. David Coultas, Health Science Center, University of New Mexico; Dr. Susan E. Dawson, Department of Sociology, Utah State University, accompanied by Dr. Gary E. Madsen, Utah State University; and Mr. Paul Robinson, Southwest Research and Information Center.
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Dr. Coultas, we will start with you.
STATEMENT OF DAVID B. COULTAS, M.D., HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO
Mr. COULTAS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. My name is David Coultas. I am a physician-researcher, board certified in internal medicine and pulmonary diseases, and a certified B-reader. Since 1984 I have been a member of the faculty at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and in 1989 I participated in the development of a health screening program for miners in New Mexico and Colorado.
To this date this program has provided screening services to approximately 4,000 miners. The screening program has been used by hundreds of former uranium miners as part of their application for compensation under the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. In addition, as a B-reader I have provided X-ray interpretations for thousands of miners. It is based on this experience that I am here to testify on the need to amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
My major concerns with the current act involve issues that may prevent a substantial number of deserving miners from qualifying for compensation. These issues are in the areas of exposure assessment, diagnosis of mining-related lung disease, and the criteria for impairment. I will briefly review these concerns on each of these topics.
First on the exposure assessment. Establishing exposure to the hazards of uranium mining with an estimate of working level months is very problematic. The President's Advisory Committee found that ''no exposure measurements are available for 90 percent of the years in most mines so that any requirement to reconstruct exposure histories is quite uncertain.'' Further, ''Any compensation scheme is necessarily imperfect''this is a quote again from the advisory committee''Any compensation scheme is necessarily imperfect, but given the strength of causal connection, and the severity of the injury, the time spent in the mines is a rational and equitable basis for determining exposure levels.''
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Now data to support this conclusion of the President's Advisory Committee is found in our screening program of former uranium miners that was published in the American Journal of Public Health last year. In this publication we report a strong relation between the duration of uranium mining and nonmalignant respiratory diseases, with a doubling of risk for dust-induced lung disease for every 10 years of underground uranium mining.
For Native Americans the risk was even higher, suggesting that they may have had greater dust exposure compared to non-Hispanic white and Hispanic miners. While the proposal in H.R. 3539 to lower the radiation exposure to 40 working level months to qualify for compensation has a sound scientific basis, the data on using duration of mining employment also provides a reasonable estimate of risk and should be considered.
Now my second area of concern is in the diagnosis of nonmalignant respiratory diseases. Currently the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act requires a chest radiograph with a profusion or a density of small opacities in the category of 1/0 or greater. However, the chest radiograph may not be sufficiently sensitive to detect all small opacities from dust exposure, and allowing for the use of the high resolution computer tomography of the chest as outlined in H.R. 3539 will largely address this problem.
Although standardization of this processthat is, the high resolution CT scanand inter-reader variability in interpretation will have to be addressed with high resolution computer tomography. Now while radiological evidence of dust-induced lung pathology is the major category of nonmalignant respiratory disease associated with uranium mining, miners with dust-induced chronic airflow obstruction will be denied compensation if a diagnosis is based solely on radiological evidence.
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In our survey of miners we found that approximately 4 percent of Native American miners with minimum or no smoking histories had obstructive lung disease that meet the RECA impairment criteria, but did not have radiological evidence of silicosis or pneumoconiosis. Because cigarette smoking is the chronic cause of airflow obstruction, the apportionment of cause between cigarette smoking and mining dust exposure is a complex problem. However, compensation for this diagnosis is clearly appropriate for nonsmokers.
Lastly, I want to review my concerns about the criteria for impairment. The current Radiation Exposure Compensation Act criteria for defining impairment systematically excludes a substantial number of Native Americans who will qualify for compensation if these biases are corrected. For example, in our survey of uranium miners, we found that the prevalence of silicosis on chest radiograph was similar among Native American miners at 14.2 percent and non-Hispanic white miners at 13 percent, yet the Native American miners were less likely to meet the RECA compensation criteria because they had a lower prevalence of impairment on spirometric testing, which is another part of the criteria.
This bias may be explained by two factors, including the high prevalence of smoking among non-Hispanic whites that results in a higher prevalence of lung function impairment compared to Native Americans, and the use of spirometric prediction equations from non-Hispanic white populations. With use of ethnic-specific spirometric prediction equations, an additional 25 to 30 percent of Native American miners may qualify for compensation. The use of ethnic-specific pulmonary function standards is included in H.R. 3539.
So, in summary, revision of the RECA standards is needed to ensure that deserving miners are fairly compensated for mining-related diseases. Thank you.
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[The prepared statement of Dr. Coultas follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF DAVID B. COULTAS, M.D., HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO
My name is David Coultas. I am a physician-researcher board certified in internal medicine and pulmonary diseases, and a certified B-reader. Since 1984 I have been a member of the faculty at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. In 1989, I participated in the development of a health screening program for miners in New Mexico and Colorado. To date this program has provided screening services to approximately 4,000 miners. The screening program has been used by hundreds of former uranium miners as part of their application for compensation under the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). In addition, as a B-reader I have provided chest x-ray interpretations for thousands of miners. It is based on this experience that I am here to testify on the need to amend the RECA.
My major concerns with the current Act involve issues that may prevent a substantial number of deserving miners from qualifying for compensation. These issues are in the areas of exposure assessment, diagnosis of mining-related lung disease, and criteria of impairment. I will now review my concerns with each of these topics.
1) Exposure Assessment: Establishing exposure to the hazards of uranium mining with an estimate of working level months is very problematic. The President's Advisory Committee found that ''no exposure measurements are available for 90 percent of the years in most mines so that any requirement to reconstruct exposure histories is . . . quite uncertain.'' Further, ''Any compensation scheme is necessarily imperfect, but given the strength of causal connection, and the severity of the injury, the time spent in the mines is a rational and equitable basis for determining exposure levels.''
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Data to support this conclusion of the President's Advisory Committee is found in our screening program of former uranium miners that was published in the American Journal of Public Health in 1997 (Mapel et al. Ethnic differences in the prevalence of nonmalignant respiratory disease among uranium miners. Am J Public Health. 1997;87:833838). In this publication we report a strong relation between duration of uranium mining and nonmalignant respiratory disease with a doubling of risk for dust-induced lung disease for every 10 years of underground uranium mining. For Native Americans the risk was even higher suggesting that they may have had greater dust exposure compared to non-Hispanic white and Hispanic miners. While the proposal in H.R. 3539 to lower the radiation exposure to 40 working level months to qualify for compensation has a sound scientific basis, the data on using duration of mining employment also provides a reasonable estimate of risk and should be considered.
2) Diagnosis of Nonmalignant Respiratory Diseases: Currently the RECA requires a chest radiograph with a profusion of small opacities of 1/0 or greater. However, the chest radiograph may not be sufficiently sensitive to detect all small opacities from dust exposure, and allowing for the use of the high resolution computed tomography of the chest as outlined in H.R. 3539 will largely address this problem. Although standardization of the procedure and problems of inter-reader variability in interpretation will have to be addressed with high resolution computed tomography. While radiological evidence of dust-induced lung pathology is the major category of nonmalignant respiratory disease associated with uranium mining, miners with dust-induced chronic airflow obstruction will be denied compensation if the diagnosis is based solely on radiological evidence. In our survey of miners we found that approximately four percent of Native American miners, with minimal or no smoking histories, had obstructive lung disease that meet the RECA impairment criteria, but did not have radiological evidence of silicosis. Because cigarette smoking is the major cause of chronic airflow obstruction apportionment of cause between cigarette smoking and mining dust exposure is a complex problem. However, compensation for this diagnosis is clearly appropriate for nonsmokers.
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3) Criteria of Impairment: The current RECA criteria for defining impairment systematically excludes a substantial number of Native Americans who will qualify for compensation if these biases are corrected. For example, in our survey of uranium miners we found that the prevalence of silicosis on chest radiograph was similar among Native American miners (14.2 percent) and non-Hispanic white miners (13.0 percent), yet the Native American miners were less likely to meet the RECA compensation criteria because they had a lower prevalence of impairment on spirometric testing. This bias may be explained by two factors including the high prevalence of smoking among non-Hispanic whites that results in a higher prevalence of lung function impairment compared to Native Americans, and the use of spirometric prediction equations from non-Hispanic white populations. With use of ethnic-specific spirometric prediction equations an additional 25 to 30 percent of Native American miners may qualify for compensation. The use of ethnic-specific pulmonary function standards is included in H.R. 3539.
In summary, revision of the RECA standards is needed to ensure that deserving miners are fairly compensated for their mining-related diseases. Thank you.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF SUSAN E. DAWSON, PH.D., DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY, UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY
Ms. DAWSON. Mr. Chairman and subcommittee members, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. Our names are Susan Dawson and Gary Madsen and we are associate professors of social work and sociology at Utah State University, Logan, Utah.
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We are here today to present evidence concerning above and below-ground uranium miners, millworkers and truck haulers. Uranium millworkers as a group were not studied as intensely as the uranium underground miners. Also, we are not aware of any formal hearings conducted on behalf of millworkers prior to the enactment of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990.
However, important studies have been conducted of millworkers. As far back as the early 1950's, a Federal report identified an excess of pulmonary fibrosis among non-Indian and American Indian millworkers compared with control groups. The most comprehensive epidemiologic studies of millworkers to date have been conducted by Archer and others, Waxweiler and others, and Wagner and others. Two of these studies found statistically significant excesses of certain cancers and nonmalignant respiratory diseases.
A study we conducted of millworkers documented work and health histories of respondents, most of whom were employed about 1970. Over 80 percent of the millworkers said they were never informed about the hazards of radiation associated with their work. Over half identified working in areas containing high amounts of dust at some point in their employment. Respiratory problems were reported by over half of the respondents.
Uranium millworkers need to be considered for compensation under RECA. The following are some examples of working conditions given by millworkers who worked prior to 1970.
One worker said, ''In hindsight it was a lot less sanitary than it should have been. Maybe more emphasis should have been emphasized on sanitation. There was dust, dirt, and spills. There were lots of chemicals.''
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''Worked 5 years before given a hard hat. They were careless about radioactive exposures. Yellowcake ran off the roof when it rained.''
Recently we interviewed a sample of women uranium workers, most of whom worked primarily in the 1970's and 1980's. They included 14 above-ground miners, 17 underground miners, 25 millworkers and 4 truck haulers, for a total of 60. Forty reported overall moderate or high levels of dust during their employment. Eleven of the above-ground miners and 13 of the underground miners reported experiencing moderate to high dust levels. For the millworkers and truck haulers combined, 16 experienced similar moderate to high levels of dust.
The following descriptions are from respondents who perceived moderate to high overall dust amounts during the 1970's and 1980's.
One worker stated, ''In the crusher, you couldn't see 5 to 10 feet in front of you.''
One noted, ''When you run the crusher, there's dust all the time. They'd water it down when the inspector came. We thought you could get cancer more from the mill than the air in the mines.''
Sixteen of the 60 women workers felt that they likely had developed uranium employment-related illness or symptoms. Respiratory problems and cancer were two of the most often identified health problems.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One former millworker described working in a mill:
''I didn't like the mill. The acid would be dripping down. I had to clean out the acid tanks. One time I came home after cleaning out the rubber in the tanks, and my clothes were in shreds. I worked 16-hour days every other day. I was inside a tank and there was an overflow. I was knee deep in acid. My T-shirt and Levis were gone. My toenails were gone as well as my boots. I once was exposed to gas and, along with another woman, ended up getting chemical pneumonia.''
Another worker reported, ''We didn't get wet suits at the tailings pond which I thought we needed. People had sores all over their bodies. I had sores on my feet. They didn't have rubber boots for us when I first started but they got them later. Once I was out there during a snowstorm. I said I can't believe I'm in this stinking horrible place. This isn't a place for human beings. Then a guy was hired and he couldn't believe we were working in such horrible working conditions. He changed things. He got us wet suits and a truck. I told a friend who had sores covering his hands to go to a doctor. He was afraid he'd lose his job so he wouldn't go. I couldn't believe how archaic the mill was when I went back there later on.''
This sample of women uranium workers suggests that workers in the 1970's and 1980's continued to be exposed to substantial numbers of occupational hazards. We feel that more studies of uranium workers from this time period are warranted. These groups deserve extensive epidemiologic studies for the workers involved. This lack of information can lead to stress and anxiety about the possibility of present or future health problems related to their occupational exposure.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman and subcommittee members, we want to thank you again for your time and consideration and for holding this important hearing today.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Dawson follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF SUSAN E. DAWSON, PH.D., AND GARY E. MADSEN, PH.D., DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY, UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY
Mr. Chairman and Subcommittee Members, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. Our names are Susan Dawson and Gary Madsen and we are associate professors of social work and sociology in the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. We are here today to present evidence concerning above and below ground uranium miners, millworkers, and truck haulers. The first group we will discuss will be the millworkers.
Uranium millworkers, as a group, were not studied as intensely as the uranium underground miners. This was likely due to the perception that uranium mills did not pose as great a radon hazard as the underground mines. Also, we are not aware of any formal hearings conducted on behalf of the millworkers prior to the enactment of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 (RECA). However, important studies have been conducted of millworkers. As far back as the early 1950s, a federal report identified an excess of pulmonary fibrosis among Anglo and Indian millworkers compared with control groups (Federal Security Agency & Colorado State Department of Public Health, 1952). The most comprehensive epidemiologic studies of millworkers to date have been conducted by Archer, et al. (1973); Waxweiler, et al. (1983); and Wagner, et al. (1964); these were all cohort mortality studies. In none of the studies were significant differences identified for overall mortality. It is important to recognize, however, that Archer et al. (1973) did find a statistically significant excess of malignant diseases of the lymphatic and hematopoietic tissues other than leukemia, and Waxweiler et al. (1983) identified a statistically significant excess of three nonmalignant respiratory diseases (NMRD): fibrosis, silicosis, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
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Our first study of millworkers was initiated after a group of Navajo millworkers requested documentation of their work and health histories (see Dawson, Madsen, & Spykerman, 1997; Madsen, Dawson, & Spykerman, 1996; Dawson & Madsen, 1995). We conducted personal interviews over a one-and-a-half year period, beginning in 1992, of 170 respondents from the Four Corners area of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and the Navajo Nation. There were 83 American Indian, mostly Navajo, and 87 non-Indian respondents of whom five were Hispanic and 82 were Anglo. For these respondents, the average number of years worked was eight. Most of the respondents were only employed before 1970. Some did work before and after 1970, but none worked only after 1970. Because of their low incidence of smoking, American Indians were an important part of the study. Questions included their recollections of millworking conditions, exposures, and perceived health effects.
Over 80 percent of the millworkers said that they were never informed about the hazards of radiation associated with their work. The Indians, in fact, had no word for radiation. Nine out of ten workers stated that they were exposed to uranium and/or yellowcake dust at certain times and in certain jobs, including the crusher, the ball/rod mill, and the drying and barreling areas of the mill. Over half identified working in areas containing high amounts of dust at some point in their employment.
The following are some examples of descriptions of working conditions given by millworkers who worked prior to 1970: ''In hindsight it was a lot less sanitary than it should have been. Maybe more emphasis should have been emphasized on sanitation. There was dust, dirt, and spills. There were lots of chemicals.'' ''As I look back, it was hazardous. Physical hazards. Worked five years before given a hardhat. Slippery floors, messy. They were careless about radioactive exposures. Inefficient scrubbers. Yellowcake ran off the roof when it rained.'' ''Most plants [where I worked] were steamy, some cold, some real hot. One was an old wooden plant, add-on, dust everywhere. Roasters gave blasts of hot dust. [Another plant] similar to [the first] but a lot cleaner. Still dusty. [The last plant] was a very good plant.''
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Respiratory problems were reported by over 50 percent of the respondents. Most (80%) identified symptoms such as persistent cough and shortness of breath; fewer (20%) reported nonmalignant respiratory diseases such as emphysema, silicosis, and COPD. We were unable to determine whether the reported incidence of these respiratory problems was higher or lower than expected for this group because we did not have a control group. For those Indians who reported respiratory problems, the vast majority were nonsmokers or had only smoked lightly while the non-Indians were generally moderate to heavy smokers.
Half of the former millers felt they had developed health problems related to their mill work. The Indians were twice as likely as the non-Indians to attribute a health problem(s) to their mill work. Emotional stress, including depression and anxiety, were reported by half of those who identified health problems related to their work.
Uranium millworkers need to be considered for compensation under RECA. Our studies of uranium millworkers are consistent with previous research which points to respiratory illnesses as an important health problem related to millworking. Two new important studies of the millworkers are currently in progress. One is an update of the Waxweiler, et al. (1983) study being conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); the second is a case-control morbidity study by the University of New Mexico. These studies should be completed in approximately one year. We think it is important to continue to include American Indians in such studies.
In addition to our study of the millworkers who were employed primarily before 1970, we recently interviewed a new sample of 72 women uranium workers. Since some women worked in more than one job, each was placed in the category in which one worked the most. The job breakdown included 14 above-ground and 17 underground miners, 25 millworkers, 4 truck haulers, and 12 office workers. The majority of women were employed in New Mexico, with others in Colorado and Utah.
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While this study has not yet been submitted for publication, we think it is important to report on the data here today because almost all of these workers were employed during the 1970s and 1980s. The original RECA legislation only covers compensation for the underground miners who worked between 1947 and 1971. In addition, to the best of our knowledge, there are no epidemiologic health studies of above-ground uranium miners and truck haulers.
The average age of the women was 53 (ranging from 36 to 79) and the average length of time worked in the uranium industry was 6.6 years (ranging from six months to 21 years). Only nine (12.5%) worked in uranium employment prior to 1970; the majority as office workers. The women included 32 non-Hispanic white, 22 Hispanic, eight American Indian, three African American, and one unidentified. We will focus only on the 60 who were miners, millworkers, and truck haulers.
The women were asked what best described the overall amount of dust they experienced during the period of their uranium work. Most, 40 of the 59, reported moderate or high levels of dust, while only 19 identified none or low amounts, and one could not make a judgment. Eleven of the above-ground miners and 13 of the underground miners reported experiencing moderate to high dust levels. For the millworkers and truck haulers combined, 16 experienced similar moderate to high levels of dust.
The following descriptions are from respondents who described moderate to high overall amounts of dust during the 1970s and 1980s. One worker stated, ''In the crusher, you couldn't see five to ten feet in front of you.'' Another said, ''I was going under the ore bins. It was always dusty. Rest of the time it wasn't as dusty. It was dirty and clean at the same time.'' One noted, ''When you run the crusher, there's dust all the time. They'd water it down when the inspector came. We thought you could get cancer more from the mill than the air in the mines.'' One respondent who identified high dust amounts reported, ''[I] drove trucks from the late '70s to the early '80s . . . I'd put the ore into the truck through a big ore bin and I would drive the truck up to a hill and dump it into a pile. Then they would take it from there to the mill. It was real dusty on the surface. When the wind blew, it was dusty, dusty, dusty.''
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In addition, 16 of the 60 women miners, millers, and truck haulers felt that they likely had developed a uranium employment-related illness or symptom. Respiratory problems and cancer were two of the most often identified health problems they identified.
One former millworker described working in a mill:
I didn't like the mill. There was too much acid and chemicals. The acid would be dripping down. I had to clean out the acid tanks. One time I came home after cleaning out the rubber in the tanks, there were acid bubbles behind the rubber, and my clothes were in shreds. I worked 16-hour days every other day. I was inside a tank and there was an overflow. I was knee deep in acid. My t-shirt and Levis were gone. My toenails were gone as well as my boots. I once was exposed to gas and, along with another woman, ended up getting chemical pneumonia.
Another mill filter operator explained how working conditions changed while she was employed at a mill:
We didn't get wet suits at the tailings pond which I thought we needed. People had sores all over their bodies. I had sores on my feet. They didn't have rubber boots for us when I first started but they got them later . . . Once I was out there during a snowstorm. I said, ''I can't believe I'm in this stinking horrible place. This isn't a place for human beings.'' Then a guy was hired and he couldn't believe we were working in such horrible working conditions. He changed things. He got us wet suits and a truck. I told a friend who had sores covering his hands to go to a doctor. He was afraid he'd lose his job so he wouldn't go. I couldn't believe how archaic the [mill] was when I went back there later on.
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This sample of women uranium workers suggests that workers in this latter period continued to be exposed to substantial numbers of occupational hazards. We feel that more studies of uranium workers from this time period are warranted. These groups deserve extensive epidemiologic studies. For the workers involved, this lack of information can lead to stress and anxiety about the possibility of present or future health problems related to their occupational exposure.
Mr. Chairman and Subcommittee Members, we want to thank you again for your time and consideration and for holding this important hearing today.
Archer, V. E., Wagner, J. K., & Lundin, F. E. (1973). Cancer mortality among uranium mill workers. Journal of Occupational Medicine, 15(1), 1114.
Dawson, S. E., & Madsen, G. E. (1995). American Indian uranium millworkers: The perceived effects of chronic occupational exposure. Journal of Health & Social Policy, 7(2), 1931. [Reprinted: (1997). In M. J. Holosko & M. D. Feit. (Eds.). Health and poverty. New York: The Haworth Press, 223237.]
Dawson, S. E., Madsen, G. E., & Spykerman, B. R. (1997). Public health issues concerning American Indian and non-Indian uranium millworkers. Journal of Health & Social Policy, 8(3), 4156.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCFederal Security Agency (Public Health Service, Division of Occupational Health) & Colorado State Department of Public Health. (1952). An interim report of a health study of the uranium mines and mills. Washington, DC: Office of Technical Services.
Madsen, G. E., Dawson, S. E., & Spykerman, B. R. (1996). Perceived occupational and environmental exposures: A case study of former uranium millworkers. Environment and Behavior, 28(5), 571590.
Wagner, J. K., Archer, V. E., Carroll, B. E., Holaday, D. A., & Lawrence, P. A. (1964). Cancer mortality patterns among U.S. uranium miners and millers. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 32(4), 787801.
Waxweiler, R. J., Archer, V. E., Roscoe, R. J., Watanabe, A., & Thun, M. J. (1983). Mortality patterns among a retrospective cohort of uranium workers. Proceedings of The Sixteenth Midyear Topical Meeting of the Health Physics Society, 428435.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Dr. Dawson.
STATEMENT OF PAUL ROBINSON, SOUTHWEST RESEARCH AND INFORMATION CENTER
Mr. ROBINSON. Mr. Smith and other members, thank you for the opportunity. My name is Paul Robinson. I am a research director at Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque, and an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico. I have worked in uranium mining areas and with members of the Navajo Nation and the Pueblos in New Mexico for the last 20 years, and have certainly been honored to work with them.
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I want to make several points in the brief time allotted. Some of those relate to the questions that members have asked. But the first point I want to make is that uranium does not occur in isolation; it occurs with its decay products, the most famous of which is radon.
But uranium itself is hazardous. Due to its chemical properties, it is hazardous to the renal system, to the kidneys. There are other heavy metals always found in association with uranium ore in this country. These include arsenic, lead, cadmium and selenium, and the uranium miners and the uranium millers were exposed to this witch's brews of hazards throughout their mining life in all of the mines.
These were well-known in the '40's when the geologists first found the ore, because these heavy metals were part of the prospecting research which the geologists did. And the millers were studied in the 1950's, I have included a copy of the report in my testimony, which showed greater health effects among millers than among miners in 1950. Greater health effects among millers than miners in 1950.
The millers were left behind in the research over radon which is a little more famous than some of these other contaminants which people were exposed to. Even today, the health research on millers and miners does not include this whole range of hazards to which the individuals are exposed, because of the difficulty in providing statistical data from this very complex combination of hazards. This is what the millers and miners were exposed to. This is the situation which the people whose elected leaders are behind me were facing during their lives.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition, the U.S. adopted increasingly stringent standards for radon in the mines. In 1971, there is also evidence that those standards were not attained is included in my testimony. In another supplemental reading one can see that the company data indicated radon levels at the standards while independently derived data by inspectors showed radon levels five times the standards in the mid-'70's.
The standards adopted in 1971 were not met. They simply were not met, and there was clear evidence that they were not met, and there was no action taken by the U.S. or state government to address these problems.
I believe that these are the kind of examples which show that the exposure to hazardous materials, the heavy metals and particulates, was well-known in the '40's and '50's and action was not taken. And when standards were adopted, they were not effectively enforced. These are, I believe, a strong basis for showing that there was intentional misinformation, intentional failure to protect the individuals, Native American, Hispanic, Anglo, African American, who were exposed during this period.
The Colorado Plateau produced most of the uranium which has been used in the U.S. This is where our weapons uranium and nuclear power uranium has come from, and these are some of the debts that I believe our government owes to the people who produced this very valuable material and were left to suffer the health effects.
There is a very strong record to support each of these different elements and their relationship to the mines, and the fact that they were well documented in the '40's and '50's. Doing new research which fails to include this full range of hazards, this is not going to address the problem that these individuals were exposed to.
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I think that there is a great deal of pride that the workers showed in their working for the government, producing uranium, producing this very valuable material. Mr. Redmond saw more than a thousand miners at his hearing in April, many people who would be here today if the opportunity were available.
This shining pride has been tarnished by the sickness which has been delivered to these families and to the descendents of those miners. This is the basis for the humanitarian compensation which was provided, and as substantial as the costs would be, certainly this is a small cost compared to the benefit received by the government and the mine operators and is very long overdue, certainly this should be done this century.
We are talking about a 50-year legacy of health damage, and the 50-year latent period is the time it takes for health effects from radon daughters alone. When radon daughters are mixed in along with this range of other hazards, even more health effects can be found, many of which have been identified by other witnesses today.
Again, thank you very much for the opportunity to address this important question. Certainly if there are any questions now or in the future, I would enjoy the opportunity to address them.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Robinson follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF PAUL ROBINSON, SOUTHWEST RESEARCH AND INFORMATION CENTER
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSUMMARY
This Overview summarizes the basis for expansion of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 to compensate sick or dying uranium workers, and dead uranium workers families in light of the expanded knowledge regarding the range of exposed populations and the range of hazards associated with uranium mines and mills in the US. This Statement summarizes linkages between the groups of uranium miners covered by RECA, the underground and open pit uranium miners and uranium mill workers outside the current scope of that Act. The statement also identifies research confirming that health effects among Native Americans uranium miners have been systematically under counted and undercompensated as a result of limitations in the RECA program.
In addition, research is included which demonstrates that the current Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) standards for radon control in uranium mines allows exposures at rates which have been shown to significantly increase lung cancer risk. This research. compiled by National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Task Force in 1980 has never been acted on, perhaps as a result of the severe drop off in the uranium mining industry which also began in 1980.
The linkages between underground uranium miners, open pit uranium miners and uranium miller workers include:
recognition of exposures to a parallel mix of hazards a higher dose uranium workers;
recognition that these hazards were identified by US officials without providing effective protection of workers from those hazards;
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recognition that mill workers health impacts, though identified as early as 1952 among US millers, did not result in an effective public health response and
recognition that complex mix of hazards present a combination of health risks not effectively addressed by current health research or research methods.
The range of hazards presented by the uranium mine and mill environment extend well beyond the radon and radon decay products upon which the well recognized health effects among US uranium miners is based. The non-radon hazards associated with the uranium mine and mill workplace include contributions from three types of hazards materials:
radioactive materials associated with the uranium ore, and occurring at each mine and mill including: uranium, uranium decay products such as thorium and radium, and emissions gamma and alpha radiation from uranium decay products other than radon;
heavy metals, occurring in varying concentrations in uranium ores including: vanadium, lead, arsenic, selenium and chromium; and
workplace hazards, associated with mines and mills in varying concentrations including: diesel and gasoline engine exhaust and blasting residue in mines and sulfuric acid, kerosene and other reagents in mills.
As alarming, recent research on uranium miners in the Southwest has documented greater impairment per year of uranium mining for Native American miners than non-Native Americans. This same research effort has demonstrated that health assessment measures used in RECA program are not adequate to discern these difference. This Report, ''Ethnic Difference in the Prevalence of Nonmalignant Respiratory Disease among Uranium Miners'', by Douglas Mapel, MD et. al. in the American Journal of Public Health, May 1995, p. 833838, also documents the importance of a non-radon hazard, silica dust, to which miners were exposed in US uranium operations.
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This overview has been written by Wm. Paul Robinson, Research Director at Southwest Research and Information Center, a non-profit scientific research and education organization based in Albuquerque, New Mexico since its founding in 1971. Mr. Robinson has been an environmental analyst at Southwest Research, where he has studied uranium mining and its environmental impacts for more than 20 years. He has taught in the Community and Regional Planning Program at the University of New Mexico where he earned his Masters Degree which included a professional project relating to planning for reclamation of uranium mine and mill sites in the Former East Germany.
Southwest Research staff have had the opportunity to closely with residents of many Native American communities affected by uranium operations including: Navajo residents of the Cove and Red Rock area during the 1980s in the first campaign for uranium workers compensation and the Crownpoint area to address current uranium development proposals as well as residents of Laguna and Acoma Pueblo to evaluate health impacts among uranium workers from those communities.
While this Overview is far too brief to fully address the issues identified in detail, it does summarize key background documents to support each of these points. Additional material to address these points are available from the author among many other sources. Appendices attached to this Overview provide documentation related to the key areas addressed.
INTRODUCTIONWHY RECA IS JUST THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS FULL AND FAIR COMPENSATION OF URANIUM WORKERS
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The wealth and power which the huge uranium deposits of the western United States have provided the US Government and the uranium industry was built with the sweat and strength of thousands of workers who dug the rock and ran the mills which produced the yellowcakethe refined uranium which is the first step in nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Uranium workers have included miners and millers of all races since its first boom after World War II, though a significant number of miners and millers were Native American, from the great tribes of the Southwest such as the Navajo Nation, the Pueblo of Acoma and the Pueblo of Laguna.
Unfortunately, the shining pride in these workers' feel in roles in building the world's largest nuclear power had been tarnished by the growing evidence of the frighteningly wide array of health risks related to the hazardous properties of the uranium ore they worked with. The long-term health effects of the workers' chronic and continuous exposure have become more clear over time as research around the world has been conducted on uranium workers. Sadly, this health research is proceeding after many workers have gotten ill or passed away, and become the dead or sick bodies for epidemiologists to count.
And during the past twenty years, it has also become abundantly clear that the US government, which ran the uranium program when it began, failed to either: 1) inform the workers of the risks they faced or 2) effectively protect them from the hazardous materials in the mines and mills. The recent disclosures confirming AEC-era 'human radiation experiments' merely fills out the long record of ineffective education and protection of uranium mine and mill workers developed during RECA's Congressional consideration up to its 1990 passage. The extensive Internet site devoted to 'uranium miners' resources' through the DOE's Office of Human Radiation Experiment is a valuable resources on this subject which summarizes uranium miner's health research and the compensation programs since 1990.
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The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990, through its establishment of a compensation program resulting from a clearly recognized US Government obligation to uranium workers and other radiation survivors, has been a precedent-setting and valuable first step by Congress. However, RECA has proven to be far too narrow in its scope of coverage and remuneration, inappropriately limiting the range and types of health problems for which uranium miners were eligible for compensation, and failing to provide coverage for the exposures visited upon a wide group of uncovered uranium miners and millers and their families. While this narrow scope may be a result of the process of political compromise, it has left an huge number of workers and their families outside its scope, in spite of the growing record of their personal or family health problems. Passage of the ''Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998'' would fill the gaps left by RECA and establish a broader scope of compensations opportunities, in keeping with the broader scope of health risks to which workers were exposed.
The 'Uranium Miners Resources' web page compiled by the US DOE's Office of Human Radiation Experiments (OHRE) identifies a series of recommendations for expansion of RECA. These recommendations are included among the set of RECA amendments found in the proposed Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998.
The fundamental basis for the passage of RECA in 1990 was recognition that US government controlled the uranium industry for more than 20 years and, driven by an urge for secrecy in an era of intense Cold War competition or a disregard for workers safety, failed to protect its uranium workers. The US government was also responsible for hiding documentation from those workers regarding the health risks associated with hazardous materials encountered during uranium operations, such as radon and its decay products.
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Now, in 1998, it is clear that this secrecy went well beyond the failure to inform and protect workers regarding radon-related risks. The cover-up included then-existing and emerging documentation about the whole witch's brew of hazardous materials, both radioactive and non-radioactive, which bombarded the workers in the mines and mills, with every breath they took.
These hazards, whose risks are documented in Appendix B, include:
uraniumwhich presents chemically-derived risks to the renal system as well as radiological risksits other decay products other than the radon daughters,
heavy metals and other compounds regularly found in uranium oresnotably arsenic, lead, vanadium, selenium, silica, and chromium among others;
and the emissions from mining technology used to remove the uranium, including engine exhaust, hydrocarbon fumes and processing reagents.
A mixture of toxins from each of these groups of hazardous materials was found in the air at each and every mine and mill operated in the US. The poor ventilation conditions in the mines and mills, which improved very slowly and incrementally as a result of regulatory enforcement during a 30 years period. The slow pace of air pollution protection left these hazardous constituents in the working areas of the mines and mills, as surely as it left the excess levels of radon decay products in the mines. The health research community has been unable to fully document radon daughter-related effects among workers after more than forty years even as the dead bodies have mounted up, in part due to the limitation of statistical analysis to provided fully certain results. And it made only a very limited effort, relative to the radon-exposure work, to address the full combination of radioactive, metal and chemical hazards facing uranium miners and millers in addition to radon decay products.
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EVIDENCE OF RISKS FROM HAZARDS OTHER THAN RADON TO URANIUM MINERS AND MILLERS IN THE PERIOD FOLLOWING WORLD WAR II
As is the case with the RECA, where the fundamental basis for uranium workers' compensation is the recognition that the owners and operators of the early mines and mills all operated under strictly controlled contracts with the AEC, and that the AEC and the operators both knew, or should have known, about the health risks forced on workers and did not act effectively to protect them.
While the piles of evidentiary material on this subject are very large, it is useful here to focus on an early and notable, yet brief, report which establishes the early recognition of health impacts among millers and the range materials to which they were subjected. This ReportAttached as Appendix A to this Statethis overviewis a May 1952 ''Interim Report of a Health Study of the Uranium Mines and Mills'', by the US Public Health Service and the Colorado Department of Public Health. Senior author Duncan A. Holaday would enjoy a long and distinguished career analyzing the health effects in the uranium industry.
The 1952 Report notes the long history of lung cancer associated with metal mines where uranium was produced in the Erz Mountains of Central Europe, along the Czech-Germany border where Marie Curies radiunium samples were mined (and the uranium mining region addressed by Paul Robinson's Master's project). There, health effects among miners there were first studied scientifically in 1879, when malignant tumors of the lung were clinically identified. These early pulmonary studies identified heavy metals such as cobalt, nickel and arsenic, as well as radon and its decay products, as likely causative agents.
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Even at this early stage US government research included efforts to minimize the relevance of these non-US studies, asserting that: ''According to the AEC, generally only one shift is employed and mines are not worked on a round-the-clock basis. Consequently, workers are not exposed immediately following blasting, when dust and radon concentrations are the highest.'' Unfortunately, the AEC's assertions during this period have been shown to be insupportable or erroneous, based on eyewitness statements and exposure reconstruction research.
Holaday's study notes that, in spite of this evidence of health effects at workers in the world's first uranium and radium mines in Europe, medical examinations of US uranium workers did not begin until 1950. The 1952 study is notable because it is among the very earliest evidence of health effects among US uranium workers, addressing a study group of more than 1,100, including both uranium miners and millers. The report indicates that the uranium miners and millers were not even treated separately for the first year of the two year study.
The Report notes that:
''the medical histories of these individuals [only 30% of whom had work more than three years] showed a predominance of respiratory infections, including pneumonia and sinus infections. There was a predominance of conjunctivitis at the time physical examinations were performed. Several cases of illness which were encountered among mill workers were attributed to long-term exposures to relatively low concentrations of vanadium compounds''.
Holaday's data demonstrated that as early as 1950 the devastating health damage to uranium workers was apparent. He found that:
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''13.8% of the white miners and 26.5 % of the white millers showed more that the usual pulmonary fibrosis as compared to 7.5% for the control group. in the same year, 20% of the Indian millers and 13.2 percent of the Indian miners showed more than usual pulmonary fibrosis, as against none in the controls.''
While Holaday is careful to indicate that ''these figures do not infer that the pulmonary fibrosis is occurring because of contact with uranium,'' his findings now stand as among the very first in long series of studies confirm lung disease among US uranium workers.
The failure of the public health community to continue the study of uranium millersa groups of thousands of workers excluded from RECA as its did with uranium miners, is incomprehensible in view of this early data which showed 60100% higher incidence of the lung.disease in millers than miners! The failure to follow-up on this uranium miller population, after the publication of such alarming first result, appears to be a serious a failure to protect atomic workers as any other in the uranium or nuclear industry in the fifty-two years since the end of World War II.
As a result the stubborn insistence of decision-makers on using only diseases confirmed by ''high-confidence-level'' statistical analysis as basis for RECA eligibility has been a barrier to the recognition of damage among the many exposed communities outside the relatively narrow focus of historical uranium health effects research. These groups include the underground and open pit miners and millers with moderate but long-term exposure to radon decay products compounded by a mix of other hazardous constituents, and the groups who would be addressed with the proposed legislation.
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The ''Summary of Environmental Findings'' in the 1952 Report provides an indication mix of hazards facing uranium workers when it provides a review of ''toxic materials present and the degree of worker's exposure'' in a sample of mines and mills. In mines hazards other than radon exposure included:
significant levels of external gamma radiation,
chronic levels of metalssuch as uranium and vanadium and
In the mills studied, both uranium and vanadium as well as silica dust were identified as a significant concerns other than radon.
The authors of the report though assert that ''dust control at the crushing operations has been found to range from fair to poor'' and recommend that ''Until adequate dust control has been established . . . workers should be required to wear approved dust respirators.''
However little direct response from this early protection recommendation can be detected. They also detected: ''relatively high concentrations of uranium and vanadium fume [in the mill] around the fusion furnaces. In practically all plants, the workers were found to be suffering from chronic irritation of the upper respiratory tract, apparently resulting from exposure to vanadium fume.''
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The authors even mention a condition call ''green throat'' among mill workers who breathe continuous levels of vanadium and uranium dust.
While the Report notes that ''there are no health hazards in the mills which cannot be controlled by accepted industrial hygiene methods'', the personal experience of the millers indicates that those control measure were not consistently available, or used, or maintained at levels consistent with industrial hygiene standards and practices. Basic industrial hygiene measures recommended in the 1952 Report, such as frequent showering and washing of clothes covered with mine or mill dust were largely ignored, resulting in a now-recognized pattern of in-home exposures resulting from the dusty work clothes which the workers wore home and which were often washed at home with other family clothing.
EVIDENCE OF HAZARDOUS CONSTITUENTS OTHER THAT URANIUM AND ITS DECAY PRODUCTS IN URANIUM ORES MINED AND MILLED IN THE WESTERN US
While the 1952 report notes uranium, vanadium and silica among the hazards other than radon to which miners and millers were exposure, it fails to systematically note the full range of hazardous metals and other chemicals in the mine and mill environment. Two Appendices are attached to this Overview to address these matters. Appendix B is a matrix of annotated health research data related to the range of radioactive and nonradioactive hazards found in uranium ore and Appendix C is an annotated list of Synthetic Organic Compounds, Hazardous Chemicals, Metals, and Radionuclides in Uranium Mill Processes, Waste Streams and Tailings.
The secretive nature of the AEC as an institution resulted tight control over the geological data associated with the AEC-supported uranium exploration and development in the Western US. As a result, basic exploration geology data regarding the range of metals and other compounds found with the ore was not disclosed until long after the mining activities occurred. This geologic information would of necessity include the characterization of constituent minerals in the ore, other than uranium and its decay products and vanadium, information which would have allowed a more focused and effective health education and protection program as it would have provided a clear list of the potentially hazardous constituents in those minerals, had it not been kept secret from the workers or health professionals at the time the deposits were developed.
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While it has not been widely recognized that this ''associated metals data'' regarding uranium deposits has long existed, such would have been essential to the development of the uranium resources in the ore. Such data would by necessity include analyses of minerals, and their constituent compounds, in the ore including major and minor compounds other than the primary mineral of value, data which are fundamental research tools for exploration and mining geology and extractive metallurgythe design of milling processed.
Published data about the first wave of uranium deposits documents the variety of hazardous heavy metals and other compounds associated with the ore, and includes the original work of the geologists characterizing the sites. As compilation of this early detail regarding ore constituents including heavy metals is a 1969 US Geological Survey Professional Paper 603 , ''Uranium Resources of Northwestern New Mexico'' authored by Lowell S. Hilpert. This report compiles data from hundreds of individual uranium deposits in the Colorado Plateau citing the geologic literature on a site-by-site basis, These data show the range of occurrence of several dozen metals and other elements in ores at mines,such as chromium, lead, nickel, arsenic, cobalt, silica, and seleniumand mill pulp from those oresincluding persistent levels occurrence of chromium. lead, nickel, and cobalt among others.
This 1969 Professional Paper demonstrates the detailed level to which heavy metals where identified at uranium operations for mining and milling purposes. This high degree of detail, however is lost when the uranium operations are considered from a health perspective, though the heavy metals listed have well recognized health risks associated with them for decades in the public health and occupational health literature literature summarized in Appendix B.
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A halo of surrounding heavy metal concentration is associated with most metal deposits in nature and the uranium deposits of the Western US outside in the Colorado Plateau and other uranium districts follow this well recognized pattern. A 1974 International Atomic Energy Agency report ''Formation of Uranium Ore Deposits'' characterizes the heavy metals associated with the major uranium districts of the western US, including those other than the Colorado Plateau. this report is a convenient basis for demonstration of the association of arsenic, selenium, and vanadium among other metals with the uranium deposits mined and milled in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Texas.
EVIDENCE OF THE FAILURE OF RECA TO ACCURATELY IDENTIFY AND COMPENSATE NATIVE AMERICANS SUFFERING FROM URANIUM MINING-RELATED DISEASES
A recent study from University of New Mexico Health Science Center research documents alarming problems with the compensation methodology established under RECA. This study, ''Ethnic Difference in the Prevalence of Nonmalignant Respiratory Disease among Uranium Miners'', by Douglas Mapel, MD et. al. in the American Journal of Public Health, May 1995, p. 833838, also documents the importance of a non-radon hazard, silica dust, to which miners were exposed in US uranium operations.
Included as Appendix C to this Statement, this study present two very significant findings related to the effectiveness and fairness of RECA. The study concludes that:
''Native American miners have more nonmalignant respiratory disease from underground uranium mining, and less disease from smoking, than other groups, but are less likely to receive compensation for mining-related disease''.
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This conclusion is based on the study's results which are summarized as:
''Uranium mining is more strongly associated with obstructive lung disease and radiographic pneumoconiosis in Native American that Hispanics and non-Hispanic White [subjects of the study]. . . . Current compensation criteria excluded 24% of the Native Americans who had restrictive lung disease and 4.8% who had obstructive lung disease. Native Americans have the highest prevalence of radiographic pneumoconiosis, but are less likely to meet spirometry criteria for compensation''.
The researchers identified silica dust as significant factor in the Native American health effects detected, as well as confirming the lack of smoking among the Native American miners. This lack of habitual smoking was shown to be in sharp contrast to the smoking patterns of non-Native Americans in the groups studied.
This study calls into question the fairness of RECA to Native Americans as well as the accuracy of the disease identification methods identified in RECA.
RADON STANDARDS SET IN 1971 DO NOT EFFECTIVELY PREVENT INCREASED LUNG CANCER AMONG MINERS
Since 1980, The National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), has been aware that ''the present MSHA standard of 4 WLM per year does not provide an adequate degree of protection for underground miners exposed to radiation when it is evaluated over their exposure life time.'' This conclusion, presented by NIOSH Director Anthony Robbins, MD on behalf of a study group composed of the leading authorities on the subject at the time lead by Victor Archer, MD, has never acted on. This study, the summary and conclusions of which are attached as Appendix D to this Statement, was deliver to the Assistant Secretary for Health, Education and Welfare in July, 1980.
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This report also identifies four ''causes for the consistent disparity between company records and MESA [now MHSA] projections of the miners' average exposures to radon daughters'', at p. 38. These are:
''1) Large variability in the concentration of radon daughters in some work areas during any one day (0.3 WL to 17.0 WL in the same stope on the same day);
2) Seemingly simple abatement problems indicated by the regular Federal and State inspections were accomplished simply by manipulating the mine ventilation;
3) The mechanics used by the mine operators to compute cumulative exposures were such that high readings were seldom or never reflected in the records. . . ; and
4) Some of the mines visited used a mine average radiation concentration and every employee working underground was given the same exposure per unit time spent underground.''
These problems were confirmed by a Denver Mining Research Center report, also cited in the NIOSH Task Force Study, which found that: 91accurate measurements of the exposure to radon daughter products has been, and remains, the most important research problem in the Bureau [of Mines]'s radiation hazards program.''
These conclusions demonstrate that not only is the MHSA 30 CFR 57.538 maximum radon daughter exposure standard of 4 WLM per year not sufficiently protective of worker health, but that the standard was not reliably attained in uranium mines following its adoption in 1971.
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Uranium workers in this country have been exposed to mix of these radioactive non-radioactive hazards since the industry began. The recognition of health hazards from the radon and radon progeny portion of this mix has overshadowed the degree of risk facing miners and millers from these other hazards they faced with every breath. And the research community has emphasized the radon and radon progeny risks to the almost total exclusion of these other hazards as well. This lack of effective monitoring or assessment either exposure or health effects has affected workers in open pit and underground uranium mines and uranium mills throughout the Western US.
Even the radon standards adopted by the Federal Government in 1971 were not effective at preventing increased risk of lung cancer and other lung disease. The Standard did not provide an adequate degree of protection for underground miners and the standard was not reliably or consistently attained in uranium mines operated after the standard was adopted.
Most recently research has shown that health effects among Native American uranium miners are consistently undercounted by RECA health assessment methods resulting in the failure of the program to effectively compensate those miners or their families.
By summarizing this range of research related to uranium mine and mill hazards and their effects on miners and millers, this Statement provides a basis for further action by Congress, by public health advocate and researchers and by affected miners and millers to remedy this injustice, and to remedy this injustice before the last of the miners and millers have died.
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Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
Dr. Dawson, let me address my first question to you and make sure that I understood your testimony, and ask for you to clarify my understanding as well. We had the Department of Justice say that some of these studies, I guess there is one particular study on which they are relying, wouldn't be completed for another year. Isn't it your understanding that there is sufficient evidence already available in that study or other studies to justify including the millers in the category of individuals who should be compensated? Should I address that better to Dr. Madsen?
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. DAWSON. If that is okay with you.
Mr. MADSEN. I think one of these studies that they are talking about now, for example the NIOSH study, is an extension of the Waxweiler study, which was mentioned. This was a study of white uranium millers, I believeI may be wrong, because I don't have evidence in front of mebut from several companies, but certainly not from the broadest range of companies, but it contained a sample size of 2,000 millers.
This particular study has already identified an excess of certain types of nonmalignant respiratory diseases. The Archer study identified certain types of cancers. So I think we already have evidence now that indicates that there were problems with these people.
I think what is going on now is that the NIOSH study is an extension of the Waxweiler study, to probably try to pin this down to an even greater extent, to see what has happened since and see possibly if there are other problems that could be identified.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you. That answers my question, that there is sufficient evidence right now in many, many instances.
Mr. MADSEN. I think some would say so. I am a sociologist, and I am not in the medical area.
Mr. SMITH. I would stick with your earlier testimony. That sounds good to me.
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MADSEN. That is right.
Mr. SMITH. Dr. Coultas, you heard the Department of Justice or know that they have objected to using the standard of, I think it was called 40 level months. Why do you think they are wrong, and why do you think that 40 level months should be sufficient to qualify for compensation?
Mr. COULTAS. Well, because of the lack of data. I am not sure that working level months should be used at all. I was suggesting that a report of duration of the exposure, we found that there is a relationshipa report of just duration of mining exposure, that is what is done in the Black Lung Act in terms of coal mining.
And it is a difficult measure of exposure to establish, given that we have very little measurement on it. I think it produces a lot of work in terms of trying to establish that, and if we relied on evidence related to the reported duration of exposure, we can see a relationship between duration of exposure and nonmalignant respiratory diseases.
Mr. SMITH. Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Robinson, we didn't have the advantage of seeing your testimony until either shortly before we began the hearing or until we just heard it, I am not sure which, so we were at a little bit of a disadvantage. Still, I thought what I just mentioned a while ago is very significant.
And that is, as I understood it, in some of the earlier studies, and I think you mentioned around 1951, the millers actually suffered from greater health ornot health care needs, but suffered healthwise more even than the miners themselves.
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What would the significance of that be in regard to Mr. Redmond's bill and in regard to the testimony of the Department of Justice?
Mr. ROBINSON. Mr. Chairman and members, I think there are several significant aspects. First, there was health research done early in the history of uranium mining which documented the health effects among millers. It was not an unknown.
Second, the research documented the range of hazards, not just the radon but the silica, the heavy metals, the uranium and vanadium in particular, as well as external gamma radiation, the type of radiation to which millers and miners were exposed but was not raised in the RECA program.
And, third, this is research which was not followed up on. So the idea that the government had evidence that it did not act on early on, this is the basis for presenting this research to you, even though it predates my work.
Mr. SMITH. All good points. Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
I don't have any other questions. The gentleman from North Carolina is recognized.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is a fascinating hearing we are having here, and I am getting more fascinated by the minute, perhaps because it is so similar to what I used to do. I mean listening to the medical testimony and sitting in a courtroom, not knowing technically the significance but understanding the general implications, where we are going, and trying to take something technical and turn it into meeting a burden of proof. I have been there and I have done that.
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Mr. SMITH. Mr. Watt, after your questioning a few minutes ago, I almost referred to you as Professor Watt. You are very knowledgeable on this subject.
Mr. WATT. I am going to do something that I would never ever have done in a courtroom. I am getting ready toand somebody asked me what the difference is between this process and the process that I followed in the courtroom. I never asked a question in a courtroom that I didn't already know the answer to. But I have a theory here and I am going to follow this theory through, and you all will have to bear with me about where I am going here.
Mr. SMITH. Thanks for the warning.
Mr. WATT. Let me ask a series of questions. First of all, Dr. Coultas, I bet you have testified in some of these workers' compensation hearings that I referred to. Have you ever testified in workers' compensation?
Mr. COULTAS. Yes, not specifically around uranium mining but other types of employment.
Mr. WATT. Dr. Dawson kept raising her hand when I was asking the questions earlier. Does the New Mexico law, as far as you know, cover occupational diseases, workers' compensation law cover occupational diseases?
Ms. DAWSON. I am not from New Mexico.
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WATT. From your State, what State are you from?
Ms. DAWSON. I am from Utah.
Mr. WATT. Does the Utah law cover occupational diseases? Would this be covered, these kinds of injuries be covered under the workers' compensation law?
Ms. DAWSON. To my knowledge.
Mr. WATT. It is not a slam dunk. I was the person, for example, in North Carolina who litigated the first case and made an occupational disease coverable under the North Carolina workers' compensation. Up to that point it had never been considered a workers' compensation compensable injury. So I mean a lot of States stillthere are some States that are still not there yet. We should not assume it.
But let me go back to my other theory. Those were just some things that were in my mind.
Tell me if anybody knows, Mr. Robinson may know from the research, and you all may know from the research, what percentage of the miners that originally got covered under this law, the original law, were white Anglos as opposed to Native Americans?
Ms. DAWSON. We have that information. I could get that for you, but I don't have it with me.
Page 109 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WATT. I would like to know that. I would like to know how the percentage of Anglos compares to the percentage of Native Americans among millers.
Ms. DAWSON. Okay.
Mr. WATT. Because if I had to bet, I would bet you, if I were a betting man, I would bet you that one of the bases on which miners were covered and millers were not didn't have a damn thing to do with medical evidence. I would just like to see those statistics.
Now, let me go backdo you have some information on that?
Mr. ROBINSON. As I recall the research, approximately 30 percent of the total miners were Native American and approximately 20 percent were Hispanic, in the sample study by Archer and Wagoner in the '70's.
Mr. WATT. So that would be about 50 percent Anglo, then?
Mr. ROBINSON. That is right. And in some communities more than 90 percent of the miners were Native American, particularly in Laguna.
Mr. WATT. What about on the millers?
Mr. SMITH. Do you have a breakdown on the millers and miners, the breakdown between the two?
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Mr. ROBINSON. Not before me.
Mr. WATT. My theory is that the millers, there were a higher representation of Native Americans and Hispanics among the millers than there were of the miners. That is my theory, but I could be wrong about that.
Mr. ROBINSON. I think you are right.
Mr. WATT. Now, let me go back to this point that was expressed in medical terminology by Dr. Coultas. The standard that is being used you say is too high, because Native Americans don't meet the standard because the standard was setI am reading between the lines of what you sayit was set on medical criteria that had to do with Anglo Americans, and Native Americans are stronger basically medically and so they don't meet that standard. Is that whatI mean, putting it in everyday understandable language as opposed to medical language, that is the essence of what you testified, isn't it?
Mr. COULTAS. That is correct, in a very general sense, Mr. Watt.
Mr. WATT. Okay. I just wanted to get those things in the record at the end of the day, because I think what you are going to find is something that we keep finding over and over. I am glad Mr. Redmond brought this to our attention. There are things going on here that don't have anything to do with medical evidence. They have to do with historical distinctions that have been made in the law, that make the hurdles more difficult for minorities to prevail than for nonminorities to prevail.
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Does anybody on this panel disagree with what I just said?
Mr. COULTAS. No.
Ms. DAWSON. No.
Mr. MADSEN. No.
Mr. WATT. Thank you.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Watt. I want to ask our panelists if the information that we have just asked for is available
Mr. ROBINSON. Yes, it is.
Mr. SMITH [continuing]. Between the millers and miners?
Mr. ROBINSON. I can certainly find it and make it available to you and Mr. Redmond.
Mr. SMITH. So you all think it is, and we look forward to hearing that. How long do you think it will take you to get that information to us?
Mr. ROBINSON. I will probably be home around midnight tonight, I probably wouldn't be able to get to it tomorrow.
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Mr. SMITH. Within a few weeks. Is that true of you as well?
Ms. DAWSON. Dr. Madsen and I have just written a paper and submitted it for publication that has some of this information, and we will forward that to you immediately.
Mr. SMITH. From your recollection, was there a distinction between the millers and miners as far as percentage of minorities? Was there a greater percentage of minorities with the millers than with the miners or not?
Ms. DAWSON. With reference to those who have been approved for RECA for the miners, we do have that information. That is what we do have in the paper. The other information we have available, and I would have to look at that.
Mr. SMITH. We look forward to getting that. Thank you all for your testimony.
On the way to introducing the members of this panel, let me say, as you all know, a few minutes ago Congressman Redmond introduced me to several of you. I was struck, in the introductions and in the ensuing conversation, that several of you all were going to be shortly celebrating in one case the 300th anniversary of your Pueblo tribe and another case the 400th anniversary. It struck me how many of us here are newcomers to the scene compared to how many, not decades, but centuries Native Americans have been here, and it does put things in perspective and perhaps keep some of us humble as well.
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Mr. Redmond, by the way, just asked me to let you all know he had an appointment with Senator Domenici of New Mexico that could not be changed, and so he has gone to that appointment and will return after that appointment. But you can guess what that appointment is about, so I know you support his keeping that.
Let me introduce the members of this panel: The Honorable Thomas Atcitty, President, the Navajo Nation, accompanied by George Arthur, Council Delegate, Navajo National Council, and E. Cooper Brown, Esquire; the Honorable Roland Johnson, Governor, Pueblo of Laguna, accompanied by Tribal Councilman Larry Lente; and the Honorable Reginald Pasqual, Governor, Pueblo of Acoma, accompanied by Tribal Councilman David Villo.
We welcome you all and look forward to your testimony.
Mr. SMITH. We will start with the Honorable Thomas Atcitty.
STATEMENT OF THOMAS ATCITTY, PRESIDENT, THE NAVAJO NATION
Mr. ATCITTY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Before I begin, I would like to give to the committee testimony that was going to be presented by Brandon Reed whose father was a miner and his grandfather has been deceased from the disease and that came from uranium mining. He had a bad experience, couldn't stand the airplane and couldn't get on the plane.
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So, for your information, I would like to turn it over.
Mr. SMITH. Without objection, we will make his testimony a part of the record.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Reed follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF BRANDON REED
Dear Chairman Lamar Smith, my name is Brandon Reed. I am giving this testimony for myself and my brother, Travis. We both wish to testify for all the children who, like us, have lost their grandfathers who worked in the uranium mines and mills. I would like to thank the Committee for inviting us. I am sorry I could not be at the hearing to make this personal plea for justice.
I heard Mrs. Clinton once say, ''it takes a village to raise a child.'' My village is dying. In my homeland, deaths have occurred due to mining and milling. I am a young man who has never worked in the mines, but every day I see the damage done to my people. As my grandfather lay on his deathbed, I looked into his eyes and promised I would speak on behalf him, our family, and his friends, miners and millers, many of whom are now dead.
In 1990, the Radiation Compensation Act was supposed to compensate miners, yet people like my grandfather are denied medical attention and their claims are ignored until long after they have passed away. I know this because it happened to my family and other families in my village. Many families have been impacted by mining sickness. There is no cure for the health problems caused by mining, unlike headaches and pain that you can cure with aspirin. If such a cure is available, please inform our local physicians and us.
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Our Navajo fathers and grandfathers did not choose to be human experiment subjects. Mining companies and research centers refused to tell miners and millers of the health hazards involved in mining. My father worked beside my grandfather. Neither of them knew how uranium mining would affect them. If my father and grandfather had known the dangers of mining, they would have looked for other work. If they had known, my grandfather might still be alive today and my father would not now be sick with the same disease that killed my grandpa. I wish Grandpa was still here to guide me. This past Father's Day, I felt emptiness as kids were wishing their grandpas and dads a ''Happy Father's Day.'' I couldn't do that!
As you go home today, remember freedom was won at the expense of human lives. My grandfather and many like him died to support nuclear defense and a safe world, that was so important to our government. I put my trust and my faith in the leaders in Washington, D.C. to do the right thing. I plea for the miners, millers, widows and children. Let our voices be heard. As ''Independence Day'' approaches, support our efforts to make the R.E.C.A. laws less strict. Miners and millers need to be included in the proposed amendments to R.E.C.A. and compensated while they are still alive. On behalf my grandfather, my father, and the families of many miners and millers who died, I thank you.
Mr. ATCITTY. Mr. Chairman, it gives me great pleasure to be here this morning to testify on behalf of the House of Representatives Bill 3539, the RECA bill amendment, which amends RECA bill of 1990, which certainly was late in coming and long overdue. However, we still appreciate the fact that it finally did pass and was introduced and consideration was given to uranium workers.
Page 116 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC While there has been a lot of discussion regarding various issues related to the bill, the amendments, we feel that the bottom line of this bill, I think it was discussed, was brought out, and, that is, all along there has been no warning of any kind given to anyregardless of raceany worker regarding the dangers of radiationpossible radiation contamination from uranium-working activities. The United States Government certainly never warned the people. Public health officials never warned us.
Furthermore, the Navajos were even subjected to some experiments without their knowledge, and these kinds of things certainly, we feel, are wrongs that were done by the United States Government at the beginning.
It was mentioned that this is a compassionate payment, and we consider it as such, and I appreciate the fact that this committee is most willing to entertain the provisions and the discussions related to this amendment. And we feel very fortunate that the Congress has always been available to consider our pleas for some of the injustices that have been surrounding the dealing with Native Americans.
There is no provision for families of mothers and children that went down into the mine with lunches and had lunch with their husbands. There were cool water wells down there the family drank which were probably contaminated, and there is no provision for that kind of an exposure that the families experience.
And we talk about test results, and many of those people that are now gone who are severely affected by strong contamination, they are no longer available. They are not available for medical examinations. They never were, because they died soon after the closure of the mines. So some consideration ought to be given to those families, and their contamination. They were allowed to go down there and eat with their husbands and their fathers.
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The millworkers, of course, are now being considered, and I think this is a long time coming.
I worked and my father was a trucker, and I am glad that even truckers are now being mentioned in this discussion.
My father was a trucker. He dumped the uranium every Friday evening because he used the truck around the farm. And on Sunday evenings we would reload the uranium by hand, and all of us pitched in and reloaded it every weekend. So this is the kind of experiments thatI mean, the experience that I have had.
In addition, when I was in high school, I also worked in Colorado in a mine and, to my experience, I was never told, I was never informed of the possible radiation danger of working with uranium. So I am also speaking from firsthand thatof those people that have worked with uranium.
We have heard this morning from two government officials. They are more concerned about having been able to have done some research work at very little cost to the taxpayers. Their concern about the bill creating an additional cost of $2 billion to the taxpayerswhile the United States Government always upholds human rights violations around the world, indeed, the United States Government has spent more than $2 billion around the world trying to enforce its right of human rights and in enforcement around the world, and yet our government witnesses seem to have overlooked that commitment of America to protect human rights around the country and our commitment to human rights.
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Indeed, Congress has also a few years ago showed its compassion to America and Japanese who was in a concentration camp over in Parker, Arizona, not too far from where we live. Because of their rights being violated, Congress appropriated compensation for those people. There were no conditions of whether they were ill or contracted any kind of diseases. The fact that their rights were violated, they were compensated.
And I think this is the kind of issue that we are looking at here, and so we are hoping that we will be able to see some results. And I appreciate the fact that you are willing to listen to us.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Atcitty.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Atcitty follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THOMAS ATCITTY, PRESIDENT, THE NAVAJO NATION
''The grave injustice that the government did to the uranium miners, by failing to take action to control the hazard and by failing to warn the miners of the hazard, should not be compounded by unreasonable barriers to receiving the compensation the miners deserve for the wrongs and harms inflicted upon them as they served their country.''
Final Report, President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, page 814 (August, 1995).
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It is with deep appreciation that the Navajo Nation addresses its support for H.R. 3539, the ''Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998.'' As significant as the U.S. Congress's action was in passing the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (''RECA'') of 1990, many important issues and concerns of the Navajo uranium miners and millers were nevertheless inadequately addressed in 1990 or left unresolved by that Act. As specifically noted by resolution adopted by the Navajo Tribal Council early last year, these issues and concerns, which are addressed by H.R. 3539, include:
1. Expansion of RECA's compensation coverage for uranium miners to include financial compensation for all medical conditions caused by or associated with uranium mining;
2. Expansion of coverage to include a underground uranium mining, as well as above-ground, open pit uranium mining;
3. The provision of compensation coverage under RECA for uranium millers to the same extent and in the same manner that uranium miners are covered;
4. Increase compensation awards to uranium miners and millers for radiation-caused medical conditions to $200,000 per claim;
5. Reduce the radiation exposure requirement for all uranium miner claims (regardless of whether smokers or not) to a level recognized as doubling the miner's risk of developing lung cancer (40 Working Level Months);
Page 120 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 6. Eliminate the distinction between smokers and non-smokers for purposes of awarding compensation;
7. Provide compensation to uranium miners for violation of their constitutional rights;
8. Amend RECA's start-date for compensation eligibility to 1940 for claim awards, and allow use of a miner's post-1971 exposure history to satisfy the exposure history compensation requirement;
9. Expand RECA downwinder's fallout compensation coverage to include those areas of the Navajo reservation that were subjected to fallout from the Nevada nuclear weapons testing;
10. Amend the RECA compensation claims process for Navajo claimants to conform to Navajo law, tradition, and custom.
In the remainder of this submission, we provide a section-by-section analysis of those provisions of H.R. 3539 of particular concern to the Navajo Nation and its people.
CLAIMS RELATED TO URANIUM MINING AND MILLING
I. Scope of Coverage:
Page 121 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is very important, much needed, and long overdue, that H.R. 3539 proposes to expand RECA's coverage under Section 5 of the Act to include above-ground uranium mining and uranium milling. The fact that there have been very few follow-up medical studies of these uranium workers (unlike the underground miners) does not in our opinion, justify excluding these former miners and millers from compensation coverage.
We know from personal accounts of those who worked in open-pit mines and the uranium mills, that many of these men have suffered the same radiation-related diseases as have the underground miners. These uranium workers were in many instances placed at just as great a risk as the underground miners. Just like the underground miners, they were knowingly overexposed, given no warning, and issued no protection.
For example, in 1948 scientists with the Atomic Energy Commission sampled conditions at several mills in Colorado and one of the mines. Serious health and environmental hazards were identified in the uranium mills as well as the mine. The doctors not only found high external gamma radiation levels in the mills, the amount of radioactive dust in the mills, inhaled constantly by the workers, was ''considerably in excess of the preferred upper limit for safe working conditions'' according to the AEC scientists. They also reported that, ''A potential health hazard from radon may exist in the . . . crusher houses of the mills.''(see footnote 1) Subsequently, as the result of a full-scale study launched in the Spring of 1950, the Public Health Service reported, in 1952, findings of respiratory problems among the millers and miners, including a higher than average incidence of pulmonary fibrosis. Some mill workers were found with up to 60 micrograms of uranium in their urine. In fact, uranium readings in urine were reported as higher, on average, among the millers than the miners.(see footnote 2)
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It is important, too, that H.R. 3539 seeks to expand coverage of mining and milling activities to include the period from 1942, when vanadium mining and milling was undertaken exclusively for the government as part of the War effort,(see footnote 3) to 1990 when conventional uranium mining ceased in the Southwest.
II. Criteria for Awarding Compensation:
H.R. 3539 would lower the radon exposure level for awarding compensation under section 5 of RECA to 40 Working Level Months (WLMs). According to Dr. Jonathon Samet, Chairman of the recently published National Academy of Sciences report on radon health effects, 40 WLM is now generally considered the ''doubling dose'' for the development of lung cancer from radon exposure. (In other words, the radon exposure level at which a lung cancer will be considered ''just as likely as not'' to have resulted from such exposure.)
Additionally, the alternative to the WLM requirement based on time worked in a mine or mill) is much needed because there do not appear to be accurate measures for mining and milling WLM levels, especially for the early years. H.R. 3539's alternative exposure standard is consistent with the July, 1996, recommendations of the Administration's Interagency Working Group Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Committee, as well as the earlier recommendation of the President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. Indeed, the Advisory Committee determined that ''no exposure measurements are available for 90 percent of the years in. most mines . . .'' Moreover, the Advisory Committee found, because many mines are now out of business, ''records needed to establish an exposure history are simply unavailable.'' All things taken into consideration, the President's Advisory Committee recommended ''that minimum length of service be set quite low, preferably not more than a year.''
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Finally, we note that H.R. 3539 removes the smoking/non-smoking distinction currently found in RECA. This distinction, which has required smokers (and former smokers) to show a higher level of WLM exposure in order to receive compensation, has posed a particular hardship on Navajo claimantswho have been penalized for engaging in ceremonial smoking just as if they had smoked 40 packs a year for 40 years. In any event, elimination of this distinction is consistent with a recent report of the National Cancer Institute which, as the Advisory Committee has noted, found little evidence to support the requirement that smokers demonstrate a higher level of radon exposure than nonsmokers in order to qualify for compensation. (Advisory Committee Final Report, pp. 812813).
It is important too, that H.R. 3539 addresses the issue of compensation for nonmalignant respiratory diseases and other medical conditions associated with uranium mining and milling. As in the case of lung cancer, the recommendation of an alternative exposure standard for other respiratory diseases, based on time worked in the mine or mill, is consistent with the recommendations of the Administration's Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Committee. Also, the pro-vision of coverage for ''other medical conditions associated with uranium mining and milling'' is an important addition to RECA. This will permit claims to be submitted and, if proven, awarded even though not expressly covered by the legislation. By adopting this provision, Congress would not foreclose the possibility that other medical conditions, in addition to those which are lung-related, are associated with uranium mining and milling, and thus compensable.(see footnote 4)
III. Claim Awards
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC H.R. 3539 provides for compensation up to $200,000. This is an important proviso. The current $100,000 award for lung cancer and other deaths has proven woefully inadequate, given the wrong that was perpetrated on the miners and the suffering that has resulted. Moreover, experience has demonstrated that particularly in the case of deceased Navajo miners, that the awardsonce distributedhave often been for less than $10,000 to $15,000 per child. Moreover, even though RECA defines these awards as ''partial restitution,'' the fact is that in accepting an award under RECA, the claimant is required to relinquish all rights and all claims against not only the federal government, but as against the companies involved in the mining as well.
IV. Claims Related to ''Human Use Research''
The President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments expressly found that ''The uranium miners were exposed to extremely high levels of radon daughters, which were recognized at the time to be hazardous. . . . Furthermore, the government studied the miners without disclosing the purposes of the examinations or warning them of the hazards to which they were exposed.'' Advisory Committee Final Report, pp. 813814. In summation, the Advisory Committee concluded, ''the mines of the Colorado Plateau . . . became laboratories for studying radiation damage to humans.'' Final Report p. 563. Since this study focused largely on the Navajo miners, the Navajo Nation supports the additional provision contained within H.R. 3539 that would compensate any miner subjected to this egregious conduct for violation of his constitutional rights.
V. Wrongful Death and Other Mining-Related Claims
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For those miners and millers who have died, the only way many of the families have of proving a claim under RECA is through the deceased miner's medical records. However, in many instances these medical records no longer exist. This has proven a particular problem for Navajo miners, whose records should have been maintained by the Indian Health Service but instead have either been lost or, according to some reports, destroyed pursuant to IHS order. H.R. 3539 would remedy this problem, at least in part, by presuming that any death, not otherwise compensable as a radiation-related death, which arose ''out of or in the course of employment'' is nevertheless attributable to the uranium mining or milling, and thus compensablealthough at a lesser amount than full recovery.
There are also many complaints among miners and millers of non-malignant, non-life-threatening medical conditions for which there is sound basis to conclude that the medical condition is mining or milling related. Thus, we welcome the provision in H.R. 3539 that would provide a means by which such conditions can be presented and, if proven, receive a minimal level of compensation.
It is important that the definition of ''Working Level Months'' is clarified, as the Department of Justice's current definition does not reflect the actual time that workers spent in the mines, and thus underestimates actual radiation exposures.
The Navajo Nation also supports the redefinition of ''Nonmalignant Respiratory Diseases'' to remove the distinction currently in RECA that only permits a claim for silicosis or pneumoconiosis if the uranium mining occurred on the Navajo Reservation. Many Navajo worked in uranium mines in areas off the Navajo Reservation. It is noted that this change is consistent with Clinton Administration recommendations.
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We note, and support the redefinition of ''lung cancer'' to include ''in situ'' lung cancer, consistent with Clinton Administration recommendations.
The redefinition of ''uranium mines'' to include vanadium-uranium ore mining is important. Many Navajo worked in vanadium mining activities during World War II for the federal government's war effort, which we now know exposed them to uranium dust and radon gases from the uranium that was found side-by-side in the vanadium mines and at the mills.
Regarding the proposed definition of ''employment'' it is important in determining the exposure level or work history necessary to qualify an individual for compensation, that the total cumulative radiation exposure to the uranium worker is taken into consideration.
Proof of Respiratory Disease: A clear definition of what is meant by the requirement that a claimant submit ''written medical documentation'' in support of a claim for a nonmalignant respiratory disease is necessary. H.R. 3539's proposed definition is consistent with the requirement that the benefit of the doubt be given the claimant, by including the various alternatives ways of establishing proof of the claim or proof of impairment. This is particularly appropriate given the inherent inaccuracies of many of these medical tests.
Regarding the proposed definition of ''Other Medical Conditions'' entitled to compensation under H.R. 3539, it is important to clarify that any condition (in addition to the lung cancer and the nonmalignant respiratory diseases) associated with exposure to radiation or the heavy metals, chemicals, and other toxic substances to which miners and millers were exposed in the mining and milling of uranium are to be taken into consideration.
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DETERMINATION AND PAYMENT OF CLAIMS
Section 5 of H.R. 3539 establishes that ''Reasonable Doubt'' is to be resolved in favor of the claimant. This is an important provision, which will insure that the Justice Department abides by the original intent of Congress at the time it passed RECA. The sponsors of the 1990 Act made it clear: the law was to be construed ''liberally'' to give the benefit of the doubt to the claimant. This has not occurred. The proposed language is similar to that in the laws governing payment of claims to veterans through the V.A., which assures benefit of the doubt to the claimant.
H.R. 3539 further seeks to ensure that the benefit of the doubt goes to the claimant by including provisions regarding the introduction of evidence and the use of X-rays. Under these new provisions, claimants would be permitted to introduce written documentary evidence in support of their claim just as they would in a court of law. (Under RECA at present, the Justice Department denies claimants this right.) The provisions concerning use of X-rays as evidence seek to assure that chest X-rays are read by credible ''B''-readers, and that the Justice Department accepts the ''B''-readers findings whether Justice likes them or not. (Under the current program, the Justice Department has been rejecting ''B''-readings if DOJ has not like the results) and the claimants have no recourse.)
Regarding the establishment of a ''Decision Deadline:'' Under the current law, DOJ has 12 months to make a decision once a claim is filed. However, if DOJ does not make a decision, there is nothing the claimant can do to force a decision. This amendment puts the ''gun'' at the Justice Department's ''head'', forcing the DOJ to make a timely decision ''or else.''
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Regarding ''Regulation Deadlines:'' Currently RECA only imposes a deadline for the adoption of implementing regulations to the original Act. This has allowed the DOJ to drag its feet on recommended regulations changes on everything else since. This proposed language would impose the same 180 deadline for adoption of regulations to implement the amendments in this bill, once passed by Congress, as was imposed by the 1990 Act for the adoption of the original regulations.
Regarding ''Court Review:'' RECA currently provides for court review. The protections proposed by the additional language in H.R. 3539 would provide some guarantee that the court review was meaningful. Moreover, the sanctions that are proposed in the event that court review is successful are necessary in order to prevent the Justice Department from callously rejecting claims in order to meet the mandated 12 month decision-making deadline.
RECOGNITION OF NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS
In the adoption in 1990 of RECA, the principal authors of the legislation recognized that the federal government owed a special duty under RECA to the Navajo uranium miners due to the violation during the mining operations of the government's trust responsibilities. (See 136 Cong. Rec. At S11754 (Aug. 1, 1990), colloquy between Senators Hatch, Domenici, DeConcini, Inouye and McCain.) In implementation of RECA, the Justice Department has failed to meet this trust obligation with respect to the Native American claimants. Thus, all of the amendments proposed at Section 5(b) of H.R. 3539, including the ''Self Determination Election'' provisions, would ensure that the intent of Congress in adopting RECA in 1990 is finally fulfilled with regard to the Navajo and other Native American claimants.
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Regarding the proposed ''Self-Determination Election'' by affected Indian tribes: Under 25 U.S.C. Sec. 450 et seq., the federal government is obligated to contract with requesting Indian tribes for the administration of various programs affected Native Americans. These programs are generally referred to as ''638 Programs.'' Most ''638'' programs are federal programs funded through or administered by the Department of Interior or Dept. of Health & Human Services (e.g. Indian Health Services). The proposed language would permit any qualifying Indian tribe to petition the Department of Justice to establish a ''638 Program,'' thus permitting any affected Indian tribe to take over from DOJ and run the RECA program for awarding claims to its own tribal members. This particular provision is important where it is determined that the Department of Justice is not taking into consideration, violating or otherwise abusing, the rights of Native American claimants.
OTHER PROVISIONS OF H.R. 3539
Section 3. Concerning fallout areas.
H.R. 3539 proposes to expand the geographical area identified under RECA as eligible for fallout compensation coverage to include the Navajo Reservation. In 1966, scientists with the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory published a report showing that the Navajo Reservation was hit by levels of fallout that resulted in thyroid exposures to children of 20 to 50 rads. These exposures were among some of the highest reported at the time.(see footnote 5) As high as these readings were, nevertheless we now know that these exposure levels underestimated actual thyroid exposures to the Navajo children because they were based on the assumption that the children drank cows milk. In October of last year (1997), the National Cancer Institute released a report on fallout showing that Navajo children in the path of the fallout from the 1950s atmospheric nuclear weapons tests would have received thyroid doses of 200 rads or moredue to the fact that the children mostly drank goat milk, not cow milk, and that goat milk results in thyroid exposures of 10 times or more the radiation dose that would result from drinking cow milk!
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Expanding the fallout compensation area to include the Navajo Reservation is clearly warranted.
Section 6. Concerning remedies.
I It is important that H.R. 3539 amends the language of section 7(b) of RECA to make it clear that a claimant who has more than one qualifying medical condition can receive compensation for both, but that where a single medical condition qualifies a claimant for compensation under more than one program (e.g. for uranium mining and as a ''downwinder''), that the claim ant can only receive compensation oncealthough the claimant would be free to choose which program he wanted to be compensated under.
Section 7. Concerning application of H.R. 3539 retroactively.
The proposed new section 8(b) to RECA is necessary in order to ensure that the amendments are given retroactive legal effect; such that any claims that have previously been filed and denied (and even in the past filed and approved) can, if they now qualify under the new law, be refiled. This is very important if all claimants are to receive equitable treatment under RECA and the amendments made by H.R. 3539.
Mr. SMITH. Governor Johnson?
STATEMENT OF ROLAND JOHNSON, GOVERNOR, PUEBLO OF LAGUNA
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Governor JOHNSON. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to testify for passage of H.R. 3539. I will try to make my remarks brief.
With your permission, Mr. Chairman, if Mr. Lente could be afforded an opportunity also to make a few comments within the limited time allotted to me.
I can assure you that passage of the act will assist many deserving individuals not covered by the 1990 act, specifically as it relates to the Pueblo of Laguna. We have a reservation of approximately 534,000 acres and a membership of around of 7,639 persons, of whom approximately 3,500 reside on the reservation.
In 1952, the Pueblo of Laguna entered into a uranium mining lease with the Anaconda Company; and as a result of that arrangement, there were 2,656 acres of land that were disturbed by the mining operations, so that the Jackpile Uranium Mine ultimately became the largest open pit uranium mine in the world. And during the course of that time, 393 million tons of material were moved, 35 million tons of uranium ore were actually produced out of the Jackpile mine itself.
At the height of its operations, 700 persons were employed at the mine. Approximately 90 percent of those individuals were members of the Pueblo of Luguna. The ore was actually milled approximately 35 miles west of Pueblo of Laguna, but a number of our Pueblo members were also employed at the mill site. Jackpile itself was responsible for production of 25 percent of the ore produced in the State of New Mexico. The Jackpile mine consisted of three open pits and nine underground mines.
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I would like to call the committee's attention to the adverse health effects associated with mining operations. At Laguna, we have six villages. One of these villages, one of the largest villages, which is home to 1,600 members of our community, was located right adjacent to the mine itself. In fact, the edge of the largest pit is only 200 yards away from the edge of the village itself.
Over the course of the 30 years that the mine was in operation, we were subjected to the effects of blasting, the movement of large trucks, so that there appearedthere always was a constant dust cloud that hung over the village itself, and even a layman could understand that this radioactive dust pervaded the environment of the village.
Back during the course of that time, you know, it spread radioactive dust over our water supply. It affected clothes that were hung out to dry. And it also impacted foods that were being dried in the sun, which is a traditional process that we have for preserving foods.
In 1977, the EPA conducted a study of the effects on the water supply and found that there was widespread contamination of surface water. The Jackpile ore body was located in sandstone and, of course, sandstone contains silica dust, so that resulted in some of the health impacts that have already been discussed by prior witnesses that have testified here this morning.
The act is consistent with our concerns and will help make financially whole the workers in surface mining operations as well as underground uranium miners.
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Laguna has always made a contribution toward this country, not only in terms of men and women who have served in the military, but we again responded when this country needed uranium ore for security purposes; and we feel that the act must be amended to ensure that it addresses the impacts of radioactive exposure on others, not just necessarily individuals who work in underground mines.
We continue to be concerned because there remains a uranium mine that has not been reclaimed. It is just to the north of our community, not more than a mile from the Jackpile mine site which has been reclaimed.
We implore the Congress to fund a continuing effort to identify uranium-mining-induced diseases on all individuals who may have been affected by the uranium mining activity, whether or not they were actually employed in the mines.
We thank Congressman Redmond for introducing the bill; and, Mr. Chairman, that concludes my remarks.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Governor Johnson.
[The prepared statement of Governor Johnson follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ROLAND JOHNSON, GOVERNOR, PUEBLO OF LAGUNA
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, I thank you for the opportunity to testify in favor of passage of the Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998 and to assure you that passage of these amendments to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act will assist many deserving individuals who were not covered by the Act in 1990.
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The Pueblo of Laguna Reservation consists of approximately five hundred thousand acres and is located in west-central New Mexico, west of Albuquerque. In 1952, the Anaconda Company began the development of the Jackpile open pit uranium mine which would disturb 2,656 acres of land and be the largest open pit uranium mine in the world when production ceased in 1982. During the thirty years of production, over 393 million tons of material and 35 million tons of uranium ore were removed from the pits providing employment for more than seven hundred persons at the height of mining activity, 90 percent of whom were Laguna tribal members.
The Jackpile Mine was, in 1982, responsible for 25 percent of the uranium production in New Mexico and, together with the Navajo Nation and the Spokane Tribe of Washington state, approximately 12 percent of the uranium production worldwide. In addition to three open pits, Anaconda Company also developed nine underground mines. Tribal members held jobs at the operation ranging from laborer to contract manager. It is important that this Committee know that one-half of this country's uranium reserves are owned by Indian tribes. In 1975, Indian tribes were the fifth leading uranium owners in the world, and the fourth leading producers.
Although the Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998 extends compensation to illnesses suffered by employees in open pit uranium mines, I would be remiss if I did not call to the attention of this Committee other adverse health effects associated with uranium mining operations. The Pueblo of Laguna is comprised of six villages scattered throughout the Reservation. One village, Paguate, is located approximately one-half mile from the Jackpile Mine. This ancient pueblo village endured enormous hardship during the thirty years of uranium mining activity. The constant blasting and movement of large ore-hauling trucks resulted in a dust cloud hanging over the village for thirty years. Even a layman could understand that this radioactive dust pervaded the environment of the inhabitants of Paguate Village spreading over the water supply, clothes drying outdoors, and food which was being dried in the sun in the traditional manner. In 1977, at my request, the Environmental Protection Agency conducted a study of the effects of uranium mining on the water supply in the Grants uranium belt, which includes the Jackpile Mine. The Agency found widespread radioactive contamination of the surface water. Regarding Anaconda's operations, the EPA found:
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Rainfall and runoff at the Anaconda Jackpile Mine is eroding uranium and selenium-rich minerals into the Rio Paguate, making it unfit for domestic, livestock, or irrigation use. The Rio Paguate is a principal source of water for the Pueblo Village of Mesita, located downstream from the Anaconda Jackpile Mine.
Monitoring of the effects of the Jackpile open pit mine on the groundwater quality is nonexistent, despite the magnitude of these operations.
Stream samples demonstrated a definite increase in Radium-226 and selenium concentrations downstream from the mining operations and continued consumption of that water was not recommended.
The Jackpile Mine was located in ore-bearing sandstone which contains silica dust. Silicosis, which is caused by breathing dust containing silica, and other non-malignant respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pulmonary fibrosis, have been linked to work in uranium mines and are probably associated with breathing the dust generated by blasting. In addition, radioactive particulates were distributed as a result of blasting and wind erosion of disturbed surfaces. At the Jackpile Mine, 86 percent of the airborne radioactive particulates were determined to come from the open pits; 14 percent came from uncovered stockpiles and dumps. Radon gas diffused from contaminated tailings material and exposed soil into the air.
In addition, these open pit miners were exposed to nitrate-based explosive fumes and dust, noise, and blunt and repetitive trauma that could lead to chemical poisoning, hearing problems, and loss of physical functioning. The potential impacts on quality of life resulting from these health effects have not yet been assessed in open pit uranium miners.
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The Pueblo of Laguna, Indian Health Service, and the Regents of the University of New Mexico for the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, and more specifically the Cancer Research and Treatment Center, Epidemiology, and Cancer Control, and the Miners Health Research Program are negotiating a memorandum of agreement to conduct a project entitled ''Health Promotion Program for Uranium Mining Pueblo Communities.'' The project comprises three main objectives: first, to build a scientific understanding regarding the effect of uranium mining on the health of residents of the Pueblo of Laguna; second, to develop community programs for prevention, intervention, and remediation for any effects of the uranium mining; and, third, to implement and provide culturally relevant education, and remediation strategies to monitor the overall impact of the project.
Contingent upon available funding, the University will provide a broad-based effort in assisting the Pueblo and Indian Health Service with issues dealing with screening and health assessment, community education programs, the development of intervention strategies, and environmental remediation plans. The project will include extensive review and correlation of existing epidemiological data and other scientific information about the effects of exposure to uranium and its by-products. The results of this program will assist greatly in identifying uranium mining effects on all residents of the Pueblo of Laguna and not just former miners and millers.
This program should help us to better understand the nature of disease among tribal members who worked at the Jackpile Mine or were exposed to the adverse effects of the mining operation. This Act is consistent with our concerns and will help make financially whole the workers in surface mining operations as well as underground uranium miners who contracted uranium mining related diseases.
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The point I seek to make to this Committee is that although we embrace and support the ''Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998,'' we encourage Congress to fund a continuing effort to identify uranium mining induced diseases on all individuals who may have been affected by the uranium mining activity, whether or not they were actual employees at the mine. There has never been a comprehensive assessment of the health effects of uranium mining on those associated with mining and also those living on the reservation affected by the mining activity.
Finally, I want to thank Mr. Redmond and this Committee for considering legislation which will ease considerably the very restrictive burden placed upon claimants by the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
Mr. SMITH. And did you want to yield some time to Mr. Lente?
Governor JOHNSON. Yes, I would, with your permission.
Mr. SMITH. Okay.
STATEMENT OF LARRY LENTE, TRIBAL COUNCILMAN
Mr. LENTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Without being redundant and going over ground that the Governor has adequately covered already, I would just like to elaborate on a couple of points here.
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One is that, in the '80's, there was a public health service doctor that took a very active interest in the Pueblo of Laguna, which, again, sits in six villages. But of the 10 most recent deaths during that period, seven were from Paguate, and all seven were determined to be some degree or variation of cancer, not necessarily employees but folks that lived in the village.
And today we have recorded documentation of females who have suffered miscarriages. One individual had three successive instances. One other, again, not an employee, suffered twice.
Two earlier experts, Mr. Remy, continued to use the word ''potential.'' We, in fact, believe we have actuals. Dr. Fine stated that there are insufficient studies regarding millers, and Dr. Dawson affirms that. I think, in this context, the criteria under the RECA is very restrictive; and I believe the Redmond bill will sufficiently expound into those areaschronology, history, medical, scientificas opposed to supposition.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Lente.
Mr. SMITH. Governor Pasqual?
STATEMENT OF REGINALD PASQUAL, GOVERNOR, PUEBLO OF ACOMA
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Governor PASQUAL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee.
My name is Reginald Pasqualto spell that, it is P-A-S-Q-U-A-L; I think that needs to be correctedand I am the Governor for the Pueblo of Acoma. On behalf of the Pueblo of Acoma and its tribal Administration and council, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to express our strong support for the Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998, H.R. 3539.
During the Cold War, as a part of their patriotic duties, many Native Americans, including many Acomans, went to work in the uranium mines and milling operations of the Southwest. It is estimated that at least 65 percent of Acomas worked at the uranium mines during the peak years of the operation. Although the Federal officials who oversaw the companies who operated those mines were aware of the risks associated with the radiation exposure, they did not warn the workers and did not undertake adequate protective measures.
Now, the mines and mills are gone and the Cold War is over, but, for the uranium workers, the consequences of the struggle continue in the form of radiation-related illnesses and untimely deaths. Although it is impossible to ever make the victims of radiation exposure completely whole, H.R. 3539 can correct an injustice in the law by providing a measure of compensation for the uranium workers not covered under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990, RECA, as well as a starting point for the healing.
RECA provided limited compensation to underground miners. However, that law provides no compensation for the above-ground miners and millers who were also exposed to dangerous high levels of radiation.
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The President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments found that the grave injustice of the Federal Government's failure to warn the uranium miners and failure to take action to control or limit the risk should not be further compounded by denying them compensation for the wrongs and the harms that they have suffered while serving their country.
H.R. 3539 would assure that a historic injustice, only partially and imperfectly addressed by RECA, is fully addressed. It would provide that all uranium workers, including above-ground miners and uranium millers, are eligible for compensation. It would also extend coverage for the entire period of 1942 to 1990 when the workers were exposed to the uranium and would allow compensation for all medical conditions associated with the uranium mining and milling, not just lung cancer and nonmalignant respiratory diseases, as provided under the current law.
H.R. 3539 would raise the compensation award for radiogenic diseases associated with the uranium mining from $100,000 to $200,000. Although this increase is significant, compared to the harm inflicted the total compensation is not great. Acoma strongly urges that the Congress adopt a level no lower than $300,000.
In addition, Acoma asks that the Congress include language providing for an initial $500 individual allowance for the costs associated in preparing the legal application process for any such benefits. As you may know, few Native Americans have the money to pay such up-front costs. As a result, historically, many Native Americans have been effectively precluded from applying for such benefits.
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Acoma also supports the measures of the bill which recognize that the uranium miner's constitutional rights were violated, as determined by the President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, as well as its recognition of Native American law, tradition and custom, including its provisions allowing transfer of certain matters to the tribal courts or agencies. Such measures are fully in the spirit of the government-to-government relationship between Native American tribes and the Federal Government.
In the end, it is a simple matter of justice. Native peoples, as well as non Indians, such as many of the members of the Cibola County Uranium Workers, did their part for the United States in the uranium mines and mills. The time has come for the United States to acknowledge that service and to redress the wrongs and harms that were committed them.
The people of Acoma strongly urge the Congress to adopt the Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998 H.R. 3539.
In addition, Chairman, I would like to add, we are located west of Albuquerque, along the Rio San Jose. The river has been contaminated from radiation that has been washed down to the Rio San Jose located east of the Continental Divide, and this is why we have such a high percentage of contamination. And the contamination affected the fish at our lake, and the water we drink, which is why the tribe is losing their economical revenues.
Thank you for this opportunity to testify in the support of H.R. 3539. Thank you, Chairman.
Page 142 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Governor Pasqual.
[The prepared statement of Governor Pasqual follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REGINALD PASQUAL, GOVERNOR, PUEBLO OF ACOMA
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, my name is Reginald Pasqual, Governor of the Pueblo of Acoma. On behalf of the Pueblo of Acoma and its Tribal Administration and Council, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to express our strong support for the Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998, H.R. 3539.
During the Cold War, as a part of their patriotic duty, many Native Americans, including many Acomans, went to work in the uranium mines and milling operations of the Southwest. It is estimated that at least 65% of Acoma people worked at uranium mines during the peak years of operation. Although the federal officials who oversaw, and the companies who operated, those mines were aware of the risks associated with radiation exposure, they did not warn the workers and did not undertake adequate protective measures. Now the mines and mills are gone and the Cold War is over; but for the uranium workers the consequences of that struggle continue in the form of radiation-related illnesses and untimely deaths.
Although it is impossible to ever make the victims of radiation exposure completely whole, H.R. 3539 can correct an injustice in the law by providing a measure of compensation for uranium workers not covered under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 (RECA), as well as a starting point for healing. RECA provided limited compensation to underground miners. However, that law provided no compensation for the above-ground miners or the millers who were also exposed to dangerously high levels of radiation. The President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments found that the ''grave injustice'' of the Federal government's failure to warn the uranium miners and failure to take action to control or limit the risk should not be further compounded by denying them compensation for the wrongs and harms that they have suffered while serving their country. See Final Report of the President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, p. 814 (August, 1995).
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H.R. 3539 would assure that an historic injustice, only partially and imperfectly addressed by RECA, is fully addressed. It would provide that all uranium workers, including above ground miners and uranium millers, are eligible for compensation. It would also extend coverage for the entire period (19421990) when workers were exposed to uranium and would allow compensation for all medical conditions associated with uranium mining and milling, not just lung cancer and nonmalignant respiratory diseases, as provided under current law.
H.R. 3539 would raise the compensation award for radiogenic diseases associated with uranium mining from $100,000 to $200,000. Although this increase is significant, compared to the harm inflicted the total compensation is not great; Acoma strongly urges that the Congress adopt a level no lower than $300,000.
In addition, Acoma asks that the Congress include language providing for an initial $500.00 individual allowance for costs associated in preparing the legal application process for any such benefits. As you may know, few Native Americans have the money to pay such up-front costs. As a result, historically, many Native Americans have been effectively precluded from applying for such benefits.
Acoma also supports the measures of the bill which recognize that the uranium miner's constitutional rights were violated, as determined by the President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, as well as its recognition of Native American law, tradition and custom, including its provisions allowing transfer of certain matters to tribal courts or agencies. Such measures are fully in the spirit of the government-to-government relationship between Native American tribes and the Federal government.
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In the end, it is a simple matter of justice. Native peoples, as well as non-Indians (such as many of the members of the Cibola County Uranium Workers) did their part for the United States in the uranium mines and mills. The time has come for the United States to acknowledge that service and to redress the wrongs and harms that were committed against them. The people of Acoma strongly urge the Congress to adopt the Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998, H.R. 3539.
Thank you for this opportunity to testify in support of H.R. 3539.
Mr. SMITH. Excuse me, let me say to you that we may be having a vote in the next few minutes. So I may cut my questions short because I would like to get to the next panel as well.
All of your testimony has been, I think, critical information for us to hear. What I would like to do is to ask each of our witnesses the same question, and that is to say that it is helpful to us if we can put the human face on situations. Could you all describe for me or name individuals or describe situations where the current 1990 Act is not adequate and where individualsor situations where individual's work should be covered? Do you have individuals who were harmed by their work in uranium mines and who have suffered consequences as a result of that work? Are there individuals you can think of who were not covered by the 1990 Act but who should be covered in your judgment?
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And if I could start with you, Mr. Atcitty?
Mr. ATCITTY. I think this is one of them, the grandfather passed away, who never received any compensation and yet died from uranium radiation exposure. And I think people have died from it that aren't available to even speak for themselves today.
Mr. SMITH. Okay. That is fine. We have the testimony for the record that you mentioned a while ago.
Governor Johnson, can you think of anyone or any situation that ought to be covered that is not covered?
Governor JOHNSON. Yes, Mr. Chairman. My understanding of the 1990 Act is that it limits compensation to those individuals who worked underground. Of the 700 members of the Pueblo of Laguna who worked at the Jackpile mine and at the mill site, the substantial portion of them worked in open pit situations and at the mill site. So those are allyou have several hundred individuals there that are not covered by the act, so
Mr. SMITH. Do you have any percentage that worked as millers versus miners?
Governor JOHNSON. I would guess that of the 700 individuals who worked in the mines, approximatelythis is a guess on my partI would say about 10, 15 percent of those individuals worked at the mill.
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Mr. SMITH. The millers above-ground?
Governor JOHNSON. Right.
Mr. SMITH. Okay, thank you.
Governor Pasqual, any people come to mind or situations come to mind?
Governor PASQUAL. I would like to address this here, too. So far, with Congressman Redmond, and I am glad that he is supporting us, too, to be compensated, there are people that have been employed at the uranium mills and miners, mostly the millers it started off with. We lost some of our people that they had been working. And our understanding is some of them, they didn't want to include the millers, but they are the first onesbecause I worked about a year there one time at the mill, but I got laid off, you know.
So, anyway, these persons that they worked there, they are processing that ore, and that is 100 percent ore, you know. They were never aware of it, you know, that it will impact their health, you know. So that is why I am saying that they should be compensated with both the millers and the miners, even probably on the top surface that are working. Because, like I said, some of them are working on mill tailings. There still is a percentage of those that are radioactive going through that. And that is why I said it. They contaminated the river, and then that is why we had to drain the water, because the fish kind of formed some kind of a cancer, too, you know. So to compensate, you know, for the employees, I would like to see them compensated.
Page 147 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also, what we are doing is we are doing some analyzing with our doctors in the reservation who died of that kind of exposure of radiation.
Mr. SMITH. Okay. That answers my question. Thank you very much.
The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt, is recognized.
Mr. WATT. I just have one question, and maybe nobody on this panel can answer it. I am going to add maybe to the assignment that has been made to Ms. Dawson.
It would be interesting to know who is downwind. What does downwind mean? Are the communities that you all are talking about downwind and were your communities eligible for compensation under the existing law because you were downwind? If you were right on the edge of this pit, would that necessarily mean that your communities, people who lived in your communities would be eligible?
Governor JOHNSON. Mr. Congressman, my understanding again of the 1990 Act is that it limited compensation only to three very specific categories of individuals; and in our particular instance, we wouldour people would not qualify for compensation under that act. And for that reason, we are most supportive of H.R. 3539.
We have two communities that are basically impacted by the operations at Jackpile. The village of Paguate, which is the village that I spoke of, is located right adjacent to the mine itself; and then downstream from the actual mine itself is another community of almost equal size, with about 1,500 people which has been impacted, because it is dependent for irrigation waters upon the stream which flows right through the midst of the mine itself.
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Mr. WATT. So I understand that the downwind provision applied only to explosions. It did not apply to being downwind from any of these pits, so it wouldn't apply to any of yourthat provision in the law wouldn'tin the existing law wouldn't apply to any of your communities?
Mr. ATCITTY. Mr. Watt, Mr. Arthur here I think has a response for your question.
Mr. WATT. Thank you.
Mr. ARTHUR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
Mr. Watt, your question, as far as having the coverage underdone when our people are not eligible under that, we do have polls within communities for mills where mills were situated. And downwind from that, we had nobody whothat has been considered or who has been found eligible.
Likewise, and in the tests that were conducted in the state of Nevada, we also have downwind effect, which our people were also not considered as being eligible. So that I believe will answer the inquiry that you have brought forward.
Mr. WATT. Okay. I think I get the picture. Thank you.
Page 149 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Watt.
Mr. WATT. I am sorry, Mr. Lente?
Mr. LENTE. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Watt, let me add one comment. Downwind presumes there is some prevailing wind. Do you agree with me so far?
Mr. WATT. It is kind of an interesting concept that we are compensating people on.
Mr. LENTE. Let me speak for a moment on temperature in versions. Colder months particularly and the twice a day blasting over a 30-year period, frequently that cloud of contaminated material, particulates and explosives, hung over the village of Paguate hours at a time. If that fits the definition of downwind, yes, prevailing and stagnant air came in there.
Downwind, the State of New Mexico's largest populated area, the City of Albuquerque, if you have been out in the Southwest, the harsh windstorms that we get through there in March and April of every year, 40 miles out of Albuquerque by the Interstate 40, 20 miles downwind as the crow flies, straight across into the State's largest populated areaAlbuquerque, Paradise Hills, Taylorthey catch that downwind.
And then the second form of transmission is water, and the Governor stated it already clearly that it is another form of a transmission of contaminated material.
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Mr. WATT. Thank you.
In the interest of time, I won't ask any more questions.
I think we want to try to get to the last panel.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Watt.
We thank you all for your statements. It was good to meet you earlier before we began. We will be back in touch, and I know you will be hearing from Congressman Redmond as well. Thank you all.
We welcome our last panelists. And let me apologize to you at the outset. I am going to have to leave after I introduce you, and Mr. Watt will chair the rest of the hearing. If I can get back, I think you will be finished by the time I do get back. I willbut I am afraid I have something that is an irredeemable conflict of sorts here.
But let me introduce and get you all off to a start, and then Mr. Watt will have some questions I am sure.
Mr. Paul Hicks, New Mexico Uranium Workers Council, accompanied by Kevin Martinez and Earl Chavez, Chairman, Cibola County Commission; and Mr. Curtis Freeman, Utah Uranium Workers Council.
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We welcome all of you all.
Mr. SMITH. We will first welcome testimony from Mr. Hicks.
STATEMENT OF PAUL HICKS, NEW MEXICO URANIUM WORKERS COUNCIL
Mr. HICKS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Watts and other members.
They just told me not to read this and make it like a speech, but I have never done this before, so I am going to have to read it. Generally, I just talk off the top of my head.
Mr. SMITH. Listen, you are welcome to read it. Having met you a minute ago, you are going to do great, even though this is the first time. So don't worry about it.
Mr. HICKS. Why do we, the uranium workers, families and friends, have to fight tooth and nail for something that our legislators should have done years ago? They certainly knew of the problem. The President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments in 1995 said RECA was unfair, unjust and needed reform. But here we are fighting with all of our hearts and souls, because we have little else to fight with. We have no money. We have few members. Some of our members can't pay their $5 dollar monthly membership dues. Some do not come to the meetings at all, because they are too embarrassed to come and say they are too poor to pay their dues. Some are too sick or can't leave their oxygen bottles, but we manage somehow.
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Again I say why? Our elected officials must know that there is a very serious problem here and all they have to do is look at ACHRE, the advisory committee, to solve most of these problems. ACHRE says very, very plainly that those people whose rights were violated should be compensated.
Why? Why are all of my buddies that I actually mined with either dead or dying? And very few that I know of personally has received compensation. Why? They smoked, not enough working levels, mine does not exist, records lost, all kinds of excuses from the Justice Department. Why are we so few I ask myself? Because they are either too sick to come on our meetings or they have left Grants, New Mexico. Most of our uranium workers left Grants, New Mexico, when the mines shut down.
Bob Miles, the best mining partner I ever had, is in Houston, Texas, dying of cancer, no compensation and living in poverty.
Why do the uranium workers and their families have to mortgage their homes, borrow money and live in poverty? Because medical bills are very expensive, as all of you know, and bills have to be paid, and if the man of the house is too sick to work, then that is why uranium workers families are deep in debt or have lost everything.
A few years ago a uranium worker was sick with fibrosis of the lung and could not work. He was depressed and shot himself. Why? Because our government will not accept their responsibility, that is why.
Page 153 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Why did the U.S. government send us to work in uranium and not tell us of the hazards? The President's Advisory Committee said it was an experiment with us to see what radiation would do to our bodies. I do not believe this is true.
The main reason they did not tell us about the dangers of radiation was simple. Had they told us, I believe the majority of us would not have went to work in a radiation environment and the government would not have got their bombs built. That is whythat is why. We risked our lives every shift working for our country, and you have no idea what it was like in those hell holes unless you were there. There were few safety rules.
Why does the government spend untold millions of dollars hauling off and covering up mill tailings and other hazardous sites to protect the public from dangerous radiation and then say mill workers were not exposed to any radiation? If it is dangerous to the public, it must have been dangerous to the mill workers. Why do we have to prove to the government where we got our illness from? They are the ones that sent us into a dangerous radiation environment. They should be the ones who have to prove we did not get it from the uranium environment.
Why do you have to have working level of radiation for nonmalignant lung diseases as fibrosis of the lungs has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with radiation. I know from a personal experience that you can get fibrosis of the lung in as little as an 8-hour shift. An example, if you were caught in smoke from a dynamite blast to the point you barely lived through it. And that is what happened to me.
Why is it that after long months of meetings and long, long hours of testimony from many uranium workers from all the four corner states we finally come up with resolutions that we get turned into a bill by our attorneys and uranium workersit no sooner is introduced than someone jumps up and says Mr. Redmond's bill is no good.
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That is not Mr. Redmond's bill. This is the uranium worker bill of the four corner states and Nevada. No one has the right to compromise this bill, not even Mr. Redmond. The only ones that have a right to compromise the bill is the uranium workers of the four corner states.
I have suffered from fibrosis of the lung for 30 years. I have had to change my whole way of life. I never get a full night's sleep any more. I wake up as if I am suffocating. My chest hurts most of the time. I have a buddy with the same problem, only he says he wakes up on the floor. He falls out of bed, because, what happened, the doctors told him you go to sleep and you breathe shallower and shallower and shallower and finally your body runs out of oxygen, and then the doctor says there is a nerve or something in your spine that says you better wake up before you die, so that is why he falls out of bed, I guess. But that wasn't in the speech, but anyway, and falls out of bed.
Who would like to put a price on this? How much is suffering like this worth? Would you like to put a price on it?
There are many uranium workers tied to oxygen bottles like dogs tied up with a chain. Their lives have been ruined and so many of us have died.
I would like to submit at this time a list of our buddies from the Grants area who have died of radiation and other mining, milling related problems. These are friends, partners, all gone at very young ages. There is a problem, very serious indeed.
Page 155 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And at this time I kind of got my speech messed up. I was in such a hurry, but I do have
Mr. WATT. [Presiding.] We will put those in the record, Mr. Hicks.
Mr. HICKS. Okay. These are the only ones that I got printed up.
Mr. WATT. We will put them in the record.
[The information referred to follows:]
Mr. HICKS. The other morning I got up and left Albuquerque at 3 o'clock in the morning. These were under the windshield of my car. There is a total of 200 names here. Of the ones that I have screened, 146, there are only 19 out of that 146 that got compensation.
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Why is it I was in the Korean war and the worst thing that had ever happened to me was I got too fat? You know, I didn't fight no war there. I ate is all I did. I was in the Navy. And for this, I get almost free medical aid at the Veterans Hospital.
I fought in the Cold War mining uranium, tore my body all to pieces to risk my life every day, and what did I get that for? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
Just about everything you read about this issue says radiation from uranium is very dangerous to the body in many ways. There are 1 million pages on the Internet about this issue. Nearly all of it says radiation is harmful to the human body.
Now, I know that weand I didn't think he was going to have these people here today when I put this inbut we don't have the technical people here today that we need, but I think we did. I will have to back up on that statement. We have no money to bring them here.
However, I think there is enough evidence in the ACHRE findings and recommendations to solve most of our problems.
At this time I would like to submit these letters of support and resolutions from various groups and organizations.
Mr. WATT. If you want to put those into the record, too, we will just put those into the record, too. That will keep you from having to read them.
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Mr. HICKS. I wasn't going to read them. I knew you wasn't going to let me do that.
[The information referred to follows:]
Hon. ORRIN HATCH, Chairman,
|Washington, DC, October 7, 1998.|
Committee on the Judiciary,
United States Senate, Washington, DC.
DEAR ORRIN: Thank you for holding today's hearing to discuss legislation to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 (RECA). We appreciate your attention to this serious issue.
Like you, we believe that the federal government has a responsibility to compensate all those who have been adversely affected by radioactive fallout from atomic testing and workers who have suffered long-term health problems because they were not adequately informed of the risks they faced working in the uranium production industry. It is our understanding that you may be considering legislation to simplify RECA and broaden the types of diseases for which individuals are eligible for compensation. In general, we support a broad approach such as that taken by Senator Bingaman's bill, S. 2343. In particular, we believe it is important to incorporate the following principles into any attempt to update RECA, and hope we can work together to do so.
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First, we are concerned that the geographic boundaries set in RECA for certain types of compensation exclude some affected populations. For example, RECA should be clarified to ensure that residents of the Navajo Nation Reservation, which was affected by radioactive fallout, are covered by the law. In addition, the section of the law which limits compensation for underground uranium miners to individuals employed in mines in the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming and Utah must be expanded to include all states. Those who worked in underground uranium mines in the state of South Dakota, for example, are not eligible for compensation under current law despite a risk of disease identical to underground miners in eligible states.
Second, we believe it is appropriate to expand compensation to certain categories of workers not covered by current lawparticularly workers in above-ground uranium mines, uranium mill workers and those employed to handle or transport uranium ore.
Overwhelming anecdotal evidence suggests that these workers have developed cancer and other diseases as a result of their exposure to uranium. Nonetheless, some analysts say that there is a lack of clear scientific data proving a link between these types of work and health problems later in life.
In some cases, the lack of such data appears to be due to negligence. For example, we have known since 1952, when a report entitled ''Interim Report of Health Study of the Uranium Mines and Mills'' by the US Public Health Service was published, that mill workers were being exposed to potentially dangerous materials. This early data shows a 60 to 100 percent higher incidence of lung disease among mill workers when compared to underground uranium miners. Despite these warning signs, no effort was made to monitor the health of mill workers. Now it is too late. We understand that too few mill workers may remain alive to provide an accurate basis for future studies.
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We believe we owe all these individuals or their surviving families the benefit of the doubt. We have heard for too long about workers who are dyingor who have already diedof cancer and other diseases known to be linked to radiation poisoning. They have waited long enough.
We hope you agree that any decision to amend RECA should address these serious problems, and that we can work together to meet this goal. Thank you for your consideration.
|Tom Daschle, United States Senate|
|Edward Kennedy, United States Senate|
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Mr. WATT. I am just trying to make sure thatwe are getting ready to get called for a vote, and I don't want toI don't want to have to cut the next witness off. That is it.
Mr. HICKS. I am just about through. I was just going to read them off: New Mexico Federation of Labor, OCAW, Correctional Workers Union, Pueblo of Acoma, City of Grants, Milan and Gallup, Cibola County, Cibola County Sheriffs Department. And we have promises of many more letters. I haven't been anyplace yet that hasn't supported me.
I just heard Senator Hutchinson of Arkansas say about the President's visit to China the President should convey the message to China that in this country we put human rights before trade, before money. Let's practice what we preach. Let's settle this issue once and for all and come up with a bill in the Senate and the House that is satisfactory to everyone. Let's do this one for the people.
We pray to God to help us at every uranium workers meeting. I pray to God every day to help us. And I ask the government of these great United States to help us. We have suffered long enough. Help us, please.
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Next is my qualifications. I worked in the Hardrock Molybdenum mine, Climax, Colorado, for 3 years; in the uranium mines in Ambrosia lake for 12 years. I worked in seven different holes. I drilled, blasted, mucked, drove track and trackless drifts, drove bald headed timbered and steel lined, raises development, slot stopesopen stopes, long holingrock bolting and timbering.
As a mine foreman, I was mine boss, clerk-engineer and safety man.
I took all of the radon readings and logged them in a log. If the readings were too high, I falsified the records. That is how it was done.
If you know whatif you want to know about how it was, ask me. I was there.
For instance, I personally helped haul five dead, mangled bodies out of those mines. I guess I will carry all these memories to my grave. It was pure hell in those uranium mines.
And I have a little bit more. The next thing, I just released this to the President in the Grants, New Mexico, a memorial. We are going to build a wall in Grants, New Mexico, in honor of those people from all the four corners states who died from working in the uranium industry. We will build this wall and ask that all of our elected officials be a part of this venture and help us to accomplish this goal.
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Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Hicks.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hicks follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF PAUL HICKS, NEW MEXICO URANIUM WORKERS COUNCIL
Why? Yes, why do we the Uranium workers families and friends have to fight tooth and nail for something that our legislators should have done years ago, they certainly knew of the problem. The Presidents Advisory Committee on Human radiation experiments in 1995 said RECA was unfair, unjust and needed reform but here we are fighting with all our hearts and souls because we have little else to fight with. We have no money, we have few members, some of our NMUWC members, cant pay their $5.00 monthly membership dues. Some do not come to the meetings at all because they are embarrassed to come and say that they are too poor to pay their dues. Some are too sick or cant leave their oxygen bottles but we manage somehow. Again I say why? Our elected officials must know that there is a very serious problem here and all they have to do is look at ACHRE to solve most of these problems, ACHRE says very plainly that those people whose rights were violated should be compensated.
Why? Why are all my buddies that I actually mined with either dead or dying and very few that I know of has received compensation. Why, they smokednot enough WLMmine does not exist, records lost, all kinds of excuses. Why are we so few I ask myself because they are either too sick to come to our meetings or they have left Grants, N.M. Most of our uranium workers left Grants, N.M. when the mines shut down.
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Bob Miles, the best mining partner I ever had is in Houston, Texas dying of cancer, and no compensation and is living in poverty.
Why do uranium workers and their families have to mortgage their homes, borrow money and live in poverty, because medical bills are very expensive as all of you know, and bills have to be paid and if the man of the house is too sick to work then that is why Uranium worker's families are deep in debt or have lost everything. A few years ago a uranium worker was sick with fibrosis of the lung and could not work, he was depressed and shot himself! Why? Because our Government will not accept their responsibility that's why.
Why did the U.S. Government send us to work in uranium and not tell us of the hazards? The presidents ACHRE said it was an experiment with us to see what radiation would do to our bodies! I do not believe this is entirely true. The main reason they did not tell us about the dangers of radiation was simple, had they told us I believe the majority of us would not have went to work in a radiation environment and the government would not have got their bombs built, that's why. We risked our lives every shift working for our country, and you have no idea what it was like in those hell holes, unless you were there. There were few safety rules.
Why does the Government spend untold millions of dollars hauling off and covering up mill tailings and other hazardous sites to protect the public from dangerous radiation and then say mill workers were not exposed to any radiation? If it's dangerous to the public it must have been dangerous to the mill workers.
Why do we have to prove to the Government where we got our illness from. They are the ones who sent us into a dangerous radiation environment, they should be the ones who have to prove we did not get it from the uranium worker's environment.
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Why do you have to have any WLM of radiation for non-malignant lung diseases as fibrosis of the lungs has nothing to do with radiation. I know from personal experience that you can get Fibrosis of the lungs in as little as an (8) hour shift. Example: If you were caught in smoke from a dynamite blast to the point you barely lived through it.
Why is it that after long months of meetings and long, long hours of testimony from many uranium workers from all the four (4) corner states we finally come up with resolutions that we get turned into a bill by our attorneys and uranium workers. It no sooner is introduced than someone jumps up and says Redmond's bill is no good.
This in not Mr. Redomond's bill this is the uranium workers bill of the four (4) corner states and Nevada. No one has a right to compromise this bill, no one, not even Mr. Redmond, the only ones that have that right are the uranium workers of the four (4) corner states and Nevada.
I have suffered from fibrosis of the lung for 30 years, I have had to change my whole way of life. I never get a full nights sleep, I wake up as if am suffocating, and my chest hurts most of the time. I have a buddy with the same problem, only he says he wakes up on the floor, he has went into some kind of convulsions and fallen out of bed. Who would like to put a price on this? How much is suffering like this worth? Would you like to put a price on it?
There are many uranium workers tied to oxygen bottles like dogs tied up with a chaintheir lives have been ruined so many of us have died. I would like to submit at this time a list of our buddies from the Grants area who have died of radiation and other mining, milling related health problems.
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These are friends, partners, all gone at very young ages! There is a serious problem! Very serious indeed!
Why is it I was in the Korean war and the worst thing that ever happened to me was I got too fat and for this I get almost free medical aid, from Veterans Hospital.
I fought in the cold war mining uranium, tore my body all to pieces risked my life every day and what do I get for thatnothing, absolutely nothing. Just about everything you read about this issue says radiation from uranium is very dangerous to the body in many ways. There are 1,000,000 pages on the Internet about this issue. Nearly all of it says radiation is harmful to the human body.
Now I know that we don't have the Technical people here today that we need. We have no money to bring them here. However I think there is enough evidence in the ACRE finds and recommendations to solve most of our problems. At this time I would like to submit these letters of support and resolutions that N M U W C has received from various groups and organizations these includeNew Mexico State legislatureNavajo agencies and Chapter housesNew Mexico Federation of Labor O C A Wcorrectional workers UnionPueblo of Acomacity of GrantsMilan and GallupCibola County and Cibola County Sheriffs Dept. We have promise of many more support letters.
I just heard Senator Hutchin's of Ark. Say about the President's visit to China, the President should convey the message to China that in this country we put human rights before trade''before money''. Lets practice what we preach.
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Lets settle this issue once and for all, and come up with a bill in the senate and the house that is satisfactory to everyone. Lets do this one for the people.
We pray to God to help us at every uranium workers meeting. I pray to god every day to help us. Now I am here today to ask the government of these great United States to help us, we have suffered long enough please help us!
QUALIFICATIONS OF PAUL HICKS
1. Hardrock Molybdenum mineClimax Colo. 3 years195659
2. Uranium minesAmbrosia Lake, N.M. 12 years, 19591971
Worked in 7 different mines
I drilledblastedmuckeddrove track and trackless driftsdrove bald headed timbered and steel lined, raises development, slot stopesopen stopes, long holeingrock bolting and timbering.
I was lead miner one day and mine foreman the next. I was mine foreman at to mines for about 2 years. 197071
As mine foreman I was mine boss, clerk-engineer and safety man.
Page 167 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I took all radon readings and logged them in a log. If the readings were to high I falsified the records, that's how it was done!
3. If you want to know about how it was just ask me I was there!
For instance I personally helped haul 5 dead mangled bodies out of those mines. I guess I will carry all of these memories to my grave. It was pure hell in those uranium mines.
|Executive Director NMUWC|
Mr. WATT. Mr. Freeman?
STATEMENT OF CURTIS FREEMAN, UTAH URANIUM WORKERS COUNCIL
Mr. FREEMAN. I am a mill worker, and I represent the Utah Uranium Workers Council. I started working in the pilot plant in Grand Junction in 1950. And I worked through four different mills. I worked at the pilot plant to learn how to process uranium, and I am going to talk mainly about how you process uranium from the mills.
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But I worked at the pilot plant. I also worked at the government mill when it was changing over at Monticello. I worked there about 2 years, farmed out from Grand Junction. And whenever they started the mill, Charlie Stein's mill, the uranium reduction, and it went to Atlas. I worked there 15 and a half years. And then I worked 9 years for Rio Algom Uranium Mill, which was a Canadian mill, and moved in there. And I retired from there.
But in the process of uranium, I think I can prove that it is just as hazardous as the mines could possibly be, because we ground the finished product through a screen with a brick, manually grinding it through to ship it to get it to size for sale. And I don't think there is anything worse than that. Because you get that uranium at that point, which is U308, you get that into your lungs; and, according to Dr. Sacamanto in Grand Junction, he says once you get that in there, there is no way that your body can get rid of it.
And what that is, you get a negative or a positive, I forgot which one it is now, but it isit is negative or positive ray, the sun has the opposite; when they hit each other coming through your body, it destroys tissues, which causes cancer wherever it happens to hit.
But in the mill, we started outyou have to get the raw ore, of course. You run it through the ball mill, and in doing so, you have it in big bins. When you have to take an air lance and go in there and blow the bins.
And at that time we were not told about anywe didn't have any protection whatsoever for about the first 10 years that we were in the mills. We just went in. We had to take our clothes home for our wives and families to wash the clothes and then get back to us for working.
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But I think the worst part of it was thatwas grinding this. In fact, we poured it out on the cement floor and taken the forklift and grounded it with the tires of the machine. And when that happened, the whole mill was covered, was completely black, just like black soot to where you couldn't hardly breathe throughout the mill. But we weren't told what damage that might due to our bodies or our health. And we had no way of protecting ourselves because of situations like this.
But we had to work, or I had to work to feed my family, and not knowing what was coming up. And I have been very fortunate. I had lived about 30 years of it, and I had lost a lot of my friends at a very young age thatfrom cancer and so forth. Some of my very dear friends didn't last less than 10 years working in the mill, and they passed on.
And now there are moreI have hundreds of people that I know of that, if we go to this 3-year extension of getting something done, they won't be around to enjoy it. And so this is one thing that I would like to see done, if I am here to try to get something, get you peopleto explain it to you to where you understand what I am trying to say.
But I just feel that it is very important that I come here today and try to represent the people that I know that they are very badly in need of help. There is a lot of women there that have lost their husbands, and they have no moneya lot of them has went through lawyers and spent what little money they did get ahold of to hire some lawyers to help get some compensation, which they have not got. All they have got done is got ripped off. Excuse my language.
Page 170 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But, anyway, I do support Mr. Redmond and his bill, and I sure do appreciate him bringing that into our situation.
But I workedI was a shift foreman for all of those years. So I worked throughout the mill and in every department, and I know what it was like. It was real hazardous in every department.
I believe that covers just about all I can say about that. If you have any questions, I will try to answer them for you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Freeman follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF CURTIS FREEMAN, UTAH URANIUM WORKERS COUNCIL
The Utah Uranium Workers Council seeks to enact Federal legislation in which the following specific items will be included and addressed in congressional legislation to amend RECA. It is intended that this proposal for legislation will be introduced before the U.S. Congress on behalf of the Utah Uranium Workers Council.
1. Expand RECA compensation coverage for uranium workers to include financial compensation for other medical conditions associated with uranium workers; including leukemia, all radiation causes cancers, and other radiation related health problems.
2. Increase compensation awards for medical conditions suffered by uranium workers from the present level (of $100,000 per claim) to $200,000 per claim.
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3. Provide compensation to uranium workers for violation of their constitutional rights, regardless of whether the miner suffers a radiation-related medical condition. (For example, compensation should be rewarded to miners who were used in Government experiments and studies without their knowledge and consent. As to the amount of the claim award: $50,000 is recommended, as this was the amount awarded to U.S. citizens of the Japanese descent who were interned in the prison camps during World War II).
4. Reduce the radiation exposure requirement for all uranium workers, and down winders claims (regardless whether smokers or not) to a level recognized as doubling the risk of developing lung cancer.
5. Amend RECA's start date for compensation eligibility to 1942 for claims awards, and allow use of workers post 1990 exposure history to satisfy the exposure history compensation requirement.
6. Expand the definition of all uranium workers to include all underground, above-ground, and open pit miners.
7. Expand RECA down winders fallout compensation coverage to include all areas that were subject to fallout from the Nevada nuclear testing.
To: Utah Uranium Workers Council
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I Curtis C. Freeman worked in Uranium Mills. I started with the Pilot Plant in Grand Juction Co. from 1950 through 1954 to the learning processing uranium. I moved to Moab, Utah and started working at the Atlas Mineral Mill in 1955 through 1961, from there I transferred to Rio Algom Uranium Mill in 1961 through 1981. All of these times as a shift foreman working throughout the mills. The first of these ten years the workers had no protection and were exposed to high levels of radiation. Through my years of working all employees were to take our clothing home to be washed and cleaned by our wives or family members thereby exposing them to radiation.
In the mill we grinded yellow cake to shipping barrels with a forklift placed on a cement floor foundation at that time black yellow cake. Dust was throughout the mill without even a respirator given to the workers. Also grounded through a screen to a barrel the same material for shipping was required. The workers were never notified as to the hassazards to our health. On June 15, 1947 I and my wife had a handicapped daughter, I don't know if her handicap is due to this exposure I occured while working or not, but she also suffered a stroke at 14 years of age which has caused her some paralises on her right side. I do know that I have lost several friends to cancer that I worked with at the mills.
|Curtis C. Freeman|
Mr. WATT. I thank both of you gentlemen for being here and testifying. And I think theyou may have been the panel that Chairman Smith was looking for when he said he was looking for real-life instances where people had suffered, particularly the list that Mr. Hicks brought with him. We will put that in the record, and I will make sure that the Chairman is aware of those people.
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Let me just ask a couple of questions.
Mr. Freeman, I take it you were a miller for all of the time?
Mr. FREEMAN. I was in the milling all the way through.
Mr. WATT. All the way through.
Mr. FREEMAN. Yes.
Mr. WATT. So you, under the existing statute, would not be eligible to even make a claim?
Mr. FREEMAN. Right.
Mr. WATT. Okay. Mr. Hicks, did you ever work in any position that would make you eligible to make a claim under the existing law?
Mr. HICKS. I have a claim in now.
Mr. WATT. You have a claim in now?
Mr. HICKS. It was filed June 6th. I have fibrosis of the lung at age 40.
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Mr. WATT. And I assume no disposition has been made yet of your claim?
Mr. HICKS. No, and I won't hear about it for a year to 18 months. That is how long it takes the Justice Department to file a valid claim.
Mr. WATT. All right. I don't have any further questions.
I will yield to Mr. Cannon.
Mr. CANNON. Thank you, Mr. Watt.
I just apologize again for being out. We had anothera couple of contentious markups, so I had to be in other places. I apologize for missing some of your testimony, Mr. Hicks, but I think I got all of your yours, Mr. Freeman.
We appreciate your coming here today; and having to face a person who had these problems and can testify about it, I think it is very important and I appreciate that and we look forward to doing something on this legislation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CHAVEZ. Mr. Watt, can I talk for 3 to 5 minutes? I have some very important legislation.
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Mr. WATT. Without objection, unless Mr. Cannon has some objection. Go right ahead.
Let me make it clear, we are not passing over Mr. Redmond. He is not a member of this committee or this subcommittee, so that is why we haven't allowed him to ask questions of the witnesses. I just wanted to make it plain to you all, he is from another committee.
We need to have you identify yourself and what your relationship is.
STATEMENT OF EARL CHAVEZ, CHAIRMAN, CIBOLA COUNTY COMMISSION
Mr. CHAVEZ. My names is Earl Chavez. I am here as a representative of Cibola County. I am the Commission Chairman and also as a son of a father that died that worked as a uranium miner.
First of all, as Chairman of the Commission, I just wantI represent 25,000 people from our county, and we need your help, and we need your direction. People are dying in our community because of the uranium industry.
Is it possible to get some kind of a committee to come out and listen to some of these people in our community? We need towe need some kind of a record of the stories before these people die. A lot of people have died in our community, and they haven't been able to tell their stories, other than when we come up here and talk about them. People are asking for someone to come and listen. That is all I will say as a Commissioner.
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As a son of a uranium miner, my father worked in the uranium mills and in New Mexico, and he died at the age of 51. He was also a World War II Veteran. My father had a broken back, and he lived with an oxygen bottle the last 10 years of his life. And he died of cardiac arrest and respiratory problems.
I have four sisters and a brother, and we all had to work at an early age because of my father's sickness. We all went to school and received an education, but others in our community were not so lucky.
I have a magazine here, in 1980, a picture of my father on oxygen, and then pictures of my father with a broken back because of the mines.
My mother is still alive. She still works to continue to live.
After I received my education, I went away to school. I went to DeVry Institute of Technology in Phoenix, Arizona. I got my education, and I came back home to work with my familyto be with my family.
I went to work at Homestake Mining Company in the mill. I was an instrumentation tech. I was responsible for all the automatic valves. The mill kind of ran in automatic, and then you had workers there. We milled ore, we crushed it, filtered it, abstracted it, dried it, prepared it to send it out to the government.
We hadthe people that worked there had badges. These badges, you can't find them anymore. Nobody can find these badges that were around.
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We saw peoplethe people question whether the mill people should be eligible for this. They were dealing with the pure yellow cake. I used to see them barrel it. They used to dry it. It was all over. It was all over their shoes and boots. They used to take it to the lunchroom, eat lunch, wash hands, and it was all over your clothes. But we trusted the mining companies, and we trusted the government that they were telling us what was safe for us.
I can remember the janitorthe janitor lady. She used to wash all the coveralls covered with yellow cake. She has passed away. She is gone. She died. Her family is asking for compensation. They are not eligible for it.
The things Dr. Dawson was talking about earlier, about the acid
Mr. WATT. I hate to interrupt you. But we are going to have to bring this hearing to an end. I already engaged in an unprecedented act by allowing a witness to testify who is not listed as a witness for purposes of the hearing. And I am getting ready to be snatched out of here to go for a vote in another committee.
To respond directly to the question you asked about the hearing, the reason that the representative is here in Congress and has brought this matter to us is that he is the person who has conducted, I assume, many, many hearings informally to document the existence of a problem. The specifics of the cases have to be either filed with the Department of Justice or not filed with the Department of Justice.
Page 178 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I hope that you all are getting the word out to people who are eligible under the existing statute or may be eligible under the existing statute. And I think the purpose of this hearing is to try to evaluate whether we can move toward a more comprehensive statute, and we will certainly try to use that as a basis for doing this.
Let me put in the record a statement from Senator Jeff Bingaman, which he has submitted about this issue.
[The prepared statement of Senator Bingaman follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. JEFF BINGAMAN, A U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your willingness to hold a hearing on amendments to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 (RECA). You and the members of this subcommittee are to be commended. Thank you for allowing me to provide testimony today.
I was pleased to be a sponsor of the legislation in 1989 that led to the formulation of the current law. The current RECA was the result of bicameral bipartisan efforts.
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was enacted in 1990 as a means for compensating thousands of individuals who suffered from exposure to radiation as a result of the federal government's nuclear testing program and federal uranium mining activities. Although the government can never fully compensate for the loss of a life or the reduction in the quality of life, provisions of the legislation were clearly intended to redress the injustices suffered by those individuals who were never warned by the Federal Government of the hazards posed to their health.
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When the original legislation was enacted into law, I was very optimistic that after years of waiting, some degree of redress would finally be given to the thousands of miners in my state. Unfortunately, I have heard from many of my constituents that the program has not worked as intended. I have heard from New Mexicans that the intent of this legislation is not being fulfilled and that dozens of miners and their families are having tremendous difficulty meeting strict federal regulations for compensation.
In June of 1993, 1 chaired the Senate oversight hearing on this issue in Shiprock, NM, for the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. In that same year, the Senate adopted a measure I had sponsored to authorize a study on the effects of uranium milling on the health of uranium mill workers. My belief is that this study will point to a causal relationship between working in uranium mills and radiation related disease.
These mill workers contributed to the national security of the United States at the height of the Cold War. They risked their health and their lives without being advised by the government that they could be in jeopardy. Many of these workers were Navajos, who, like the uranium miners and the World War 11 Code Talkers before them, gave their lives for the benefit and safety of all Americans. This group was not originally in RECA despite the fact that they were also exposed to radiation.
Mr. Chairman, turning to the present situation, I believe that the issue must be addressed on three levels: administrative changes which can be acted upon immediately, regulatory changes that will reflect the spirit of the original legislation, and substantive changes through legislation.
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To this end, we must work to see that the RECA is administered fairly and efficiently and that the unique needs of the Navajo people are addressed. We need to be sure that the Department of Justice understands the intent behind the 1990 law and that their day to day operation is consistent with that intent.
Additionally, I will be working with the Indian Health Service to augment their ability to provide quality, timely care for the individuals affected.
On the regulatory front, the Department of Justice needs to send out final rules that it knows are justified and noncontroversial. Other areas of regulatory changes that have generated controversy must be resolved and promulgated in an expeditious manner.
Finally, as you hear from the experts today, you will be defining which legislative changes are warranted. We must ensure that we remove any ambiguities and inconsistencies within the current RECA. We need to make sure that the act will not encourage burdensome regulations, impose onerous documentation requirements, or force legitimate beneficiaries to undergo extensive and painful testing only to be denied compensation.
I have been told by the IHS physicians that provide medical care to the miners and millers that there is no cure for many of the diseases these men suffer. We cannot reverse the progress of their disease. What we can do is provide not only the government's apologies but a compassionate program of compensation that is not in and of itself a burden.
Thank you again for the opportunity to present testimony on this important issue that affects the lives of so many. I have been involved in this issue for most of my time in the Senate and I look forward to working with you as we continue to address the needs of uranium workers.
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Mr. WATT. Unless Mr. Cannon has another question, we will consider the hearing terminated, and then I can run and get my voteadjourned. You can tell I don't preside very much.
Mr. HICKS. Thank you, Mr. Watt.
Mr. WATT. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 12:50 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
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Hon. HENRY J. HYDE, Chairman,
|Utah State University,|
|Department of Sociology,|
|Social Work and Athropology,|
|Logan, UT, June 29, 1998.|
Committee on the Judiciary,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
DEAR REPRESENTATIVE HYDE: We want to thank you for holding the hearing on H.R. 3539. It was important for us to attend this hearing and to present our statement on behalf of uranium workers. Members of the Subcommittee expressed an interest in minority information relating to RECA legislation. As per their request, we have enclosed this information. The ''Approved'' and ''Denied'' claims concerning American Indians and non-Indians is presented on page 18 of the article entitled, ''Workers Activism and Environmental Justice: The Black Lung and Radiation Compensation Programs.''
Page 185 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Once again, thank you for your support of H.R. 3539the Radiation Workers Justice Act of 1998.
|Susan E. Dawson, Gary E. Madsen|
In press with the Tulane Journal of Social Welfare. Not for distribution.
0Keywords: activism, black lung, compensation programs, environmental justice, grassroots, radiation, social movements,
0Authors: Susan E. Dawson, Ph.D. and Gary E. Madsen, Ph.D.
Title: Worker activism and environmental justice: The black lung and radiation compensation programs
Respiratory disease recognition and compensation programs for coal and uranium nuiners are analyzed through the use of social movement process models. A historical review of these miners shows the importance of grassroots activism not only in the recognition of occupational diseases but also during the development and administration of compensation programs. Suggestions for researchers, practitioners, and grassroots activists are also discussed in order to develop more socially just policies.
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Susan E. Dawson, Ph.D.; Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology; Utah State University; Logan, UT 843220730; 4357971287; 4357971240 FAX; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gary E. Madsen, Ph.D.; Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology; Utah State University; Logan, UT 843220730; 4357971233; 4357971240 FAX; e-mail: email@example.com.
The identification of occupationally related illnesses and injuries has led to compensation programs on the state and federal levels. Historically, these programs have resulted in widespread compensation of claimants with occupational injuries, but this has not been the case with occupational diseases. Only about five percent of occupational disease is covered by workers' compensation programs, and only one percent of all workers' compensation claims are for occupational disease (Ashford, 1992). Reasons for this include the difficulty in establishing clearcut causation between work exposures and disease, involving possible multiple causation from both work and nonwork environments; and latency, often involving an extended period of delay between exposure and disease onset (Boden, 1995; Dembe, 1996; Locke, 1985).
In this article we will examine two federal compensation programs, within the context of the social movement literature: the Federal Black Lung Benefits Program and the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). First, we will demonstrate the importance of the development of social movements in identifying the nature of work exposures and attendant illnesses; then we will identify the need to incorporate social movement frameworks in understanding the compensation process; and finally, we will examine how researchers, practitioners and grassroots activists can help to facilitate more socially just compensation policies.
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SOCIAL MOVEMENT LITERATURE
During the 1970s several process models were developed which identified the important contributions of social movements in the identification of social problems (see Downs, 1972, Mauss, 1975; Sabatier & Masmanian, 1980; Spector & Kitsuse, 1973). All of these models recognized the role of activism of movement members as they attempted, to have their conception of social problems recognized by the larger society.
Mauss's model (1975) is a good example of social movement development and decline. He delineates five stages in the natural history of a social movement: 1. incipiency (when a concerned but unorganized group begins to recognize a problem); 2. coalescence (when formal and informal organizations emerge and are directed toward problem identification); 3. institutionalization (the movement gains widespread recognition and legislation begins to be passed to address the problem); 4. fragmentation (this occurs primarily through co-optation after a period of success); 5. and demise (generally the end of the movement except for a small band of ''true believers'').
More recently Dunlap (1989), in looking at public opinion and environmental policy, has further explained the role of co-optation as it relates to the likely fragmentation and demise of social movements. He states:
What seems particularly probable and important, however, is that a movement's success in stimulating governmental action to solve a problem leads the public to believe that the problem is ''being taken care of ' and there's no longer any reason to worry about it. In other words, once the government assumes responsibility for a problem, the general citizenry (and the media and activists to lesser degrees) is likely to feel less personal concern for the problem. (p. 90)
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In recent years, there has been a growing interest in studying community toxic exposures within the context of the social movement literature (see Brown & Masterson-Allen, 1994; Brown & Mikkelsen, 1990; Bullard, 1990, 1993; Edelstein, 1988; Hess & Wandersman, 1985). Activism develops among people who believe they have been exposed to contaminants and who seek to have the exposures officially recognized and remedied. Brown (1992, 1997) has developed the concept of ''popular epidemiology'', which is based upon his review of contaminated community studies, particularly a leukemia cluster in Woburn, MA.
Brown's model of ''popular epidemiology'' identifies a process in which lay persons organize to conduct their own studies of the exposures and health effects in their communities. The model includes the following ten stages: 1. observing by lay people of health effects and pollutants; 2. hypothesizing connections between pollutants and health effects; 3. creating a common perspective through lay mapping of disease clusters; 4. looking for answers from government and science; 5. organizing a community group; 6. conducting official studies by experts which often do not substantiate citizen concerns; 7. bringing in experts by activists; 8. filing lawsuits by citizens against the accused perpetrators; 9. using the findings of community-initiated health studies to press for official corroboration; and 10. continuing vigilance around the environmental issue (Brown, 1997, pp. 140144).
Studies regarding communities exposed to toxic waste find that the activists are mostly working class and lower-middle class people, who are drawn into community action through their personal experiences. They become involved through actual or perceived trauma to their families and themselves, with women often at the forefront of these movements (see Brown & Masterson Allen, 1994; Cable, 1992; Freudenberg, 1984; Milbrath, 1984).
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Common to both Mauss's and Brown's models is the importance activism plays in the recognition and possible amelioration of a social problem. Their approaches both incorporate the social constructionist definition of social problems. According to Spector and Kitsuse (1987, p. 75), ''. . . we define social problems as the activities of individuals or groups making assertions of grievances and claims with respect to some putative conditions.'' In the next section, we will examine the history of activism in the forefront of the identification of occupational diseases caused by coal and uranium employment.
THE COAL AND URANIUM MOVEMENTS
The rise of grassroots activism played important roles in the recognition of both coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP/black lung) among coal miners and underground uranium miners' lung cancer and nonmalignant respiratory diseases (NMRD). In addition, we will discuss the growing activism among former uranium millworkers who perceive health problems related to their employment (see Dawson & Madsen, 1995; Madsen, Dawson, & Spykerman, 1996; Dawson, Madsen, & Spykerman, 1997).
Black Lung Movement
Smith (1981, 1987) and Fox and Stone (1980) have written extensive histories of the recognition of CWP among coal workers and have also discussed the initial phases of the federal compensation program. They have documented the importance of grassroots activism among the miners and their families, which challenged the general unwillingness among the medical community to recognize lung disease as being caused by coal dust exposure.
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During the 1940s and 1950s, most of the medical research that was conducted tended to emphasize not the problems of coal dust, but the problems of silica exposure, unhealthy living conditions, and personal habits of miners (see Smith, 1987). However, the role of coal dust as a causative agent was given substantial support by two comprehensive studies of black lung among approximately 16,000 coal miners (Lieben, Pendergrass, & McBride, 1961; McBride, Pendergrass, & Lieben, 1963). These were joint ventures between the medical staff of the United Mine Workers' (UMW) Welfare and Retirement Fund-affiliated clinics and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. These landmark studies were soon followed by others which reported similar findings (see Smith, 1987).
The growing recognition in the medical literature documenting CWP was not enough to insure that the sick miners would be compensated. This was accomplished largely through the efforts of two grassroots organizations developed during the 1960sthe Association of Disabled Miners and Widows and the Black Lung Association (BLA). VISTA volunteers, lawyers, and some sympathetic physicians worked closely with both groups, functioning as community organizers and political and legal strategists. These groups organized public demonstrations, initiated strikes, and participated in intense lobbying at both the state and federal levels (see Smith, 1987). In addition, the 1969 Farmington, West Virginia, mine disaster galvanized support for the passage of the federal black lung benefits program which was part of the 1969 Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. Fox and Stone (1980, p. 52) noted, ''The Farmington disaster precipitated miners' hostility toward the companies, the union, the government and the medical profession.'' Smith (1987) summarized the importance of grassroots activism among the coal miners as follows:
The black lung movement posed its greatest ideological threat to the medical profession, which proved a formidable opponent. At issue was not only scientific disagreement over the nature and extent of occupational lung disease among coal miners. This populist, working-class uprising threatened to intrude upon the inner sanctum of physicians' status and authoritytheir professional control over the definition of disease. (p. 119)
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Furthermore she stated, ''The black lung movement arose from the class-based discontent of workers who sought to settle accounts with the coal operators for the suffering they had caused'' (Smith, 1987, p. 136).
Uranium Miners' Movement
Early evidence from central European uranium miners, who worked in the Erzgebirge Mountain mines of Joachimstal, Germany, and Schneeburg, Czechoslovakia, indicated that they suffered from lung cancer and non-malignant respiratory diseases (NMRD) (see Agricola, 1597; Harting & Hesse, 1879). During the 1940s the United States embarked on an intensive program of uranium production, which included the excavation of thousands of mines primarily in the Southwest. At that time there were concerns about the uranium miners developing lung cancer through radon exposure. However, medical researchers were not in agreement as to the applicability of the European studies to uranium mining in the United States (see Hueper, 1942; Lorenz, 1944, Teleky, 1937).
Many scientists and health professionals in the 1940s and 1950s felt that the dangers of radon in these mines necessitated programs of mandatory mine ventilation (see Eichstaedt, 1996; Udall, 1994; U.S. Department of Energy, 1996a). However, neither the states, the mining companies, nor the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) were quick to enact adequate ventilation standards, even though the technology was available (U.S. Congress. Senate, 1990). For example, it was not until 1967 that the first enforceable national standard was developed for radon in the mines which produced uranium for the federal government (U.S. Department of Energy, 1996a).
Page 192 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Because of the latency period between radon daughter exposures and the onset of cancer, it was not until studies were conducted in the 1970s and 1980s that the full recognition of this technological disaster was realized (see Archer, Wagoner, & Lundin, 1973; Gottlieb & Husen, 1980; Samet, Kutvirt, Waxweiler, & Key, 1984a; Samet, Young, Morgan, Humble, Epler, & McCloud, 1984b). This wave of lung cancer deaths among U. S. uranium miners precipitated the formation of a grassroots social movement. Uranium miners and their families felt betrayed by the federal government, which had led the miners to believe they had been sacrificed for their country (Dawson, 1992).
One of the most effective grassroots movements for environmental justice was located on the Navajo (Dine) Nation (see Dawson, Charley, & Harrison, 1997, Eichstaedt, 1996; Udall, 1994). It developed a nucleus of two support groupsRed Valley's Uranium Radiation Victims Committee, organized in the early 1970s, and the Red Mesa/Mexican Water Four Comers Uranium Committee, started in 1985. Two support group activists, Perry H. Charley and Phil Harrison, worked to document the plight of the sick uranium miners, to educate people about uranium issues across the reservation, and to seek compensation for the miners and their families. Both of their fathers hid died from uranium mine work exposures (Dawson, Charley, & Harrison, 1997).
Charley, who was associated with both the Red Valley and the Mexican Water support groups, began working for the Navajo Division of Health in Shiprock in the late 1970s. With several others, he initiated an exploratory in-house study of possible relationships between uranium mining and birth defects in the Shiprock area. He and others involved in the study met several times with Dr. Lora Shields, who was a visiting biology professor at the Navajo Community College in Shiprock. They had read Dr. Shields's previous articles concerning her work on biological effects of radiation from the Nevada and New Mexico White Sands nuclear test sites. Dr. Shields eventually received funding for a birth defects study in the Shiprock area and Charley volunteered to work with her. Charley, Harrison, and Shields traveled extensively across the Navajo Nation to educate people about the hazards of uranium. Because there was no word in Navajo for radiation, it was important to educate workers and their families about the uranium industry in both Navajo and English (Dawson, Charley, & Harrison, 1997). In 1978 the Red Valley group invited CBS television as well as other major television networks to visit the reservation and to document the problems of the Navajo miners and their families. Despite this television coverage, little improvement or outside assistance were attained for many more years.
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In the early 1980s, the Tribal government contracted services with a pulmonary specialist, Dr. Leon Gottlieb, to screen Navajo uranium miners. During the later 1970s and early 1980s Gottlieb and other researchers produced conclusive studies showing that lung cancer among Navajo uranium miners was caused by their uranium mining (see Archer, Gillam, & Wagoner, 1976; Gottlieb & Husen, 1982; Samet, Kutvirt, Waxweiler, & Key, 1984a).
In addition to his work with Dr. Shields, Charley assisted former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall in accessing uranium miner claimants for a lawsuit Udall brought against the U.S. government (Dawson, Charley, & Harrison, 1996; Udall, 1994). Even though there was compelling evidence of government wrongdoing, it was determined that citizens could not sue the government due to the discretionary function exception of the Federal Tort Claims Act (see Ball, 1993; U.S. Department of Energy, 1996a). It was not until October 1990 that the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was passed (U.S. Statutes at Large 104, 1990). RECA provided compassionate payment to uranium miners, atomic downwinders, nuclear testsite workers, or their survivors.
Another important development which grew out of the Red Valley committee was a uranium miners' registry which eventually was called the Office of Navajo Uranium Workers and became funded by the Tribe. The activists began compiling lists of uranium workers and their families in order to develop a registry of miners, their work histories, and other data. These lists eventually were used to locate uranium miners and their families to aid them in securing compensation once RECA was passed. The Office, which was located originally in Red Valley, AZ, was moved to Shiprock, NM, in 1990 and is currently next to the Shiprock IHS (P. H. Charley, personal communication, November 26, 1997).
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Uranium Millworkers' Movement
The second stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, after mining, is uranium milling. In this process uranium ore is refined into uranium oxide, commonly called yellowcake. There were over 40 mills in the western United States with four mills located on the Navajo Nation. These four millsites have been reclaimed with all contaminates consolidated, encapsulated into a cell, and disturbed areas reclaimed, through the U.S. Department of Energy. Currently, U.S. DOE, with input from the Navajo Nation, is studying methods to restore contaminated groundwater to acceptable standards at these four sites (Perry H. Charley, personal communication, January 20, 1998).
Epiderniologic mortality studies have been conducted of white millworkers, but the evidence linking illness and work have not been conclusive enough to include them in RECA (see Archer, Wagoner, & Lundin, 1973; Wagoner, Archer, Carroll, Holaday, & Lawrence, 1964; Waxweiler, Roscoe, Watanabe, & Thun, 1983). Even though there were likely a thousand American Indian millworkers, who worked both on and off the reservation, they were never studied as a distinct group.
Like the miners, the Indian millers developed two support groups. Harrison and Charley also organized the Four Comers Uranium Millers Association in Shiprock, NM, while John Fowler organized the Western Navajo Agency Millers in Tonalea, AZ. Approximately 200 Navajo millers have been associated with these groups.
We were invited by a group of Navajo millworkers, some of whom belonged to the Four Comers Uranium Millers Association, to conduct a study of their perceived working exposures and possible health problems, following Dawson's study (1992) of underground Navajo uranium miners. Renda Fowler, of Tonalea, and Charley and Harrison all helped to facilitate the study. It was conducted in 1992 and involved in-person interviews with 81 former American Indian raillworkers. The data, analyzed in early 1993, identify that a majority of millers reported suffering from respiratory problems (see Dawson & Madsen, 1995). We sent the findings back to all the participants and representatives of the two miller support groups. They, in turn, organized several meetings across the reservation during the summer of 1993 and petitioned New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman to earmark funds for a full-scale epidenliologic study of the millworkers. Sen. Bingaman introduced a congressional bill to appropriate $500,000 for the study which was passed in 1994. Congress appropriated the funding to the Department of Defense (DOD) which then transferred it to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). At this writing NIOSH has contracted with the University of New Mexico's School of Medicine to implement a case-control study.
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Some of the millworkers have become frustrated because of the lengthy process of conducting more epiderniologic studies. They observed how long it took the uranium miners to be studied and compensated and worry that they too will have to wait indefinitely. Consequently, many of them are pursuing workers' compensation claims through an attorney.
In summary, the documentation of the health problems for both coal and uranium workers illustrates Brown's (1997) popular epidemiology model in several respects. First, workers developed a perception that their health problems were work-related and widespread among the community of workers. Next, they became aware that experts, such as physicians and government officials, disagreed with them or presented conflicting opinions concerning the etiology of their illnesses. At this point, the workers organized and pushed for recognition of their common health problems through seeking technical assistance from scientific, medical, and legal communities. They also became politically active, using various organizing strategies and tactics.
The coal and uranium workers' examples also fit the first three stages of Mauss's (1975) more general model of social movements: the incipiency, coalescence, and institutionalization stages. However as Dunlap (1989) suggests, the success of activism, which results in public policy to address the grievances, tends to make both the activists and the general public feel that the problem has been addressed. In general, people will assume that the government and other experts will work on their behalf, consequently, claimants and supporters are likely not to be as vigilant as they were during the height of the movement. In both cases the activism was eventually successful with the passage of compensation programs. Once a compensation program has been implemented, it is difficult to maintain group solidarity because claimants are treated individually by the system. In addition, those who receive compensation are likely not to be as involved with the group as they were previously.
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In the next section, we will discuss the black lung and uranium miners' compensation programs to show why it is important for the miners to maintain a high profile and not let the movement fall into fragmentation and demise.
FEDERAL COMPENSATION PROGRAMS
Federal Black Lung Benefits Program
When the black lung compensation program was created in 1969, the definition of coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP) was stated broadly. According to the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, pneumoconiosis, ''. . . includes any chronic pulmonary disease resulting in respiratory or pulmonary impairment significantly related to or aggravated by exposure to coal mine employment.'' (20 CFR 718:201)
Initially, the Act was administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA); however, in 1973, it was moved to the Department of Labor (DOL) and called the Federal Black Lung Benefits Program. The legislation has undergone several revisions over time (see Smith, 1987; U.S. Department of Labor, 1997b; U.S. General Accounting Office, 1980, 1990). We will focus on the 1972 and 1977 amendments which were related to new developments of miner activism, this time focusing on problems of the compensation program itself
Smith (1987), in discussing the definition of black lung disease, states that there are:
Page 197 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC. . . three distinct types of lung impairment: tissue destruction associated with pneumoconiosis; airway obstruction associated with bronchitis and other diseases; and oxygen deficiencies related to pulmonary vascular problems. To this day, these divergent approaches have not yielded a medical consensus on black lung. The confusing diversity of opinion raises the possibility that black lung is, in fact, several diseases, some or all of which may be associated with or aggravated by occupational exposure to dust (and perhaps other substances). (p. 29)
When initial claimants applied for compensation in 1970, the medical criteria used to determine CWP were very stringent, based primarily on chest x-ray evidence of tissue destruction (lung opacities). This resulted in a majority of claimants being denied compensation, and above ground miners and non-spouse dependents of deceased miners were not eligible. The Black Lung Association's political activism was pivotal in successfully revising the Act (see Smith, 1987). The 1972 amendments included extending coverage to surface miners and providing disability benefits for non-spouse dependents of deceased miners. In addition, eligibility requirements for claimants were broadened so that they could not be denied benefits solely on the basis of lack of x-ray evidence, but could include greater reliance on breathing tests, blood gas tests, medical history evidence, and affidavits to validate claims (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1980). These changes allowed for a broader definition of black lung disease, and allowed previously denied claimants to reapply under the new criteria. Congress allowed the more liberalized criteria to be in effect until July 1973, after which the program returned to more stringent criteria (see Smith, 1987).
After 1973, a majority of claimants were denied benefits again, leading to another resurgence of activism among the miners and their political and medical allies. This led to another liberalization of criteria, the 1977 amendments, which were implemented in 1978. Congress again made these amendments temporary until NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) and the Department of Labor could establish permanent requirements. During the period 1978 to April 1980, while waiting for permanent eligibility criteria, there was another increase in approval rates for claimants. This period also included claimants who had been denied claims previously but who were allowed to have their cases re-reviewed (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1990). A GAO report (1990) stated:
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Except for claims filed during a 2-year period (March 1978-March 1980) in which DOL used more liberal eligibility criteria, only a small percentage of miners have obtained black lung benefits. Excluding that 2-year period, DOL's approval rate between 1973 and 1988, including appeals, has been under 10 percent. Of all claims approved by DOL, about 90 percent were adjudicated under criteria in effect during that 2-year period. (pp. 23)
In April 1980, more stringent eligibility requirements were created which included proving more severe disability. This occurred after the General Accounting Office (GAO) reviewed a sample of SSA re-reviewed cases. According to the GAO report (1980) which was presented to Congress:
Our review of a random sample of 200 SSA re-reviewed and approved black lung claims indicated that, in 88.5 percent of the cases, medical evidence was not adequate to establish disability or death from black lung. The approval of these claims was not contrary to law; however, the approval was based on provisions of law which we believe do not adequantly insure that benefits are provided only to those disabled from black lung or to the survivors of those who died from black lung. (p. 8)
Then, in 1981, Congress further tightened eligibility making it even more difficult to pursue a claim. Since then the emphasis has been to revert back to the reliance on x-rays as the primary method for determining disease (Weeks & Wagner, 1986).
Smith (1987) indicates that the intense activism of the miners dissipated after the passage of the 1977 amendments. There have been attempts more recently to liberalize the Act (see U.S. Congress. House, 1994; U.S. Department of Labor, 1997a); however, at this writing the program has not changed significantly since 1981 (U.S. Department of Labor, 1997b). Between January, 1982 and September, 1996, 7.6 percent of the 115,000 claimants, who have reached the most recent decisions at any administrative level, have received compensation through the black lung program (U.S. Department of Labor, 1997b, p. 46).
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Since 1974, coal companies have been made responsible operators for payment of black lung benefits. Where a responsible operator is not determined, claimants are paid through a Trust Fund which was established under the 1977 amendments. The black lung adjudication system involves four levels. The first level involves approval or denial by the Department of Labor (DOL). Should this decision be contested by the claimant or the company, a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) is arranged. Following this, there are two levels of appeals, the Benefits Review Board (BRB) and the Courts of Appeals. This can make the claims process onerous, due to delays, for the claimant. Except for the GAO study of 1980, there are no recently published studies which identify the major reasons underlying claimants' case decisions.
Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) Program
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was passed by Congress in 1990 and provides a one-time payment of $100,000 to underground uranium miners, with lung cancer or nonmalignant respiratory disease (NMRD), who meet certain criteria. To qualify for compensation miners must show radon daughter exposure from 200 WLM (working level months) to 500 WLM. The 500 WLM figure applies to older miners who smoke (U.S. Statutes, 1990). This money is secured through a $100,000,000 trust fund administered through the Department of Justice (DOJ). In this article we will focus on the Navajo underground uranium miners and their survivors.
Because of the concentration of uranium mining and milling in the Southwest, there was a significant population of American Indian workers, particularly Navajo miners. There are no known figures on how many Navajo men were employed in uranium mining, but it is estimated that there were possibly 4,000-5,000 working during the late 1940s through the 1960s (Dawson, Charley, & Harrison, 1997). Miners worked in approximately 2,500 underground mines, across the Four Comers region of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and the Navajo Nation, the majority of which were small mines called dogholes (NIEHS & NIOSH 1971).
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Medical tests for determining uranium miners' occupational diseases are similar to those used to assess black lung among coal miners, e.g., x-rays, pulmonary function, and blood gas tests. Both the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (U.S. Department of Energy, 1996a) and the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Committee (U.S. Department of Energy, 1996b) felt that there were numerous problems with the present compensation act with respect to uranium miners.
Congress developed the statutory criteria and the Department of Justice (DOJ) developed the regulatory criteria for compensation. In several instances this was done apparently with little understanding of Navajo culture and the U.S. Indian Health Service (IHS) system. For the elderly traditional Navajo miners and widows who spoke little or no English and the majority of whom did not have telephones, applying for compensation became a burdensome process (see Brugge, 1997; Eichstaedt, 1996). The following is a list of some of the problemsNumbers 14 were evident particularly during the early years of RECA's history when large numbers of claimants applied for compensation:
1. There was a lack of funding for appropriate testing of Navajo miners. Little thought was given to the inadequacies of the IHS system in trying to conduct very specific testing programs for those living on the reservation. Consequently, many miners and their families had to travel to off-reservation cities for diagnostic tests (see Dawson, Charley, & Harrison, 1997; Eichstaedt, 1996).
2. Marriage licenses were required as proof of marriage for widows of deceased miners. The DOJ did not recognize traditional Navajo marriages, in which no formal marriage licenses were issued. For the Navajo who were married in traditional ceremonies, it took considerable time and effort to validate their marriages (see Eichstaedt, 1996; S. L. Udall, personal communication, December 18, 1997).
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3. Original copies of all documentation, e.g., birth and death certificates, were required by DOJ. Many Navajo claimants did not have birth certificates. Often, they only had Xeroxed copies of documents. Both of these problems caused additional delays in the process (see Eichstaedt, 1996).
4. All medical records were required to be certified. For the Navajo claimants, this meant having the IHS send records to Washington, DC, to be certified. This created greater delays for the Navajo than for non-Indians, making it particularly difficult for widows and survivors as they tried to piece together the medical histories of the deceased miner (see Eichstaedt, 1996).
5. RECA used non-Hispanic White nonminers in RECA's prediction equations for determining respiratory illnesses among miners instead of using ethnically-based criteria. By using RECA's criteria, Mapel et a]. (1996) found that 24 percent of the American Indians who had restrictive lung disease, and approximately five percent who had obstructive lung disease, were excluded. This demonstrates the need for revisions of the established medical criteria.
6. The smoking criteria is unreasonable for most Navajo miners because of their documented low incidence, known as social smoking. It has been recommended by the Radiation Exposure Act Committee that the smoking requirement be modified to include Navajo miners who have stopped smoking for many years as ''nonsmokers,'' unless medical records prove otherwise (see U.S. Department of Energy, 1996b).
7. For the Indians and non-Indian miners, it has been difficult for many to produce evidence of even the minimum 200 working level months (WLM) of exposure. They often did not have copies of employment records nor did many of the companies record exposure data. (This was true particularly of miners who worked in the early years.) (see U.S. Department of Energy, 1996a, 1996b; Eichstaedt, 1996).
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Eichstaedt, in commenting about some of the stringent documentation required, stated (1996):
The U.S. Justice Department, located in the heart of one of the biggest bureaucracies in the world, assumes that no one can live without documenting important acts of their lives. The idea of life without records was an alien and unsettling concept to the lawyers, who were claiming that the most powerful government on the planet had to be ''protected'' from a few hundred poverty-stricken Navajos. (p. 155)
At this writing, the approval, denial, and money dispersement of claims is as follows:
Currently, there is support from the Radiation Exposure Act Committee and the U.S. Department of Justice to change RECA legislation (U.S. Department of Energy, 1996b; U.S. Department of Justice, 1997). There is also activity in Congress to amend the law. In addition, a broad-based grassroots movement is beginning to emerge as people, including uranium miners and millworkers, organize around the shortcomings of the implementation of RECA. Meetings have been held, for instance, in Shiprock and Grants, New Mexico; Nucla, Colorado; and Moab, Utah, to acquaint people with the issues and proposed changes.
IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH, PRACTICE, AND ACTIVISM
When we look at these two federal programs, it is clear that many of the compensation criteria were defined in such a way that they were difficult for claimants to meet, and the process placed the burden of proof largely on the claimants. Social activism then developed around the issues of these stringent requirements. Most of the research to date has focused on how grassroots, activism is influential in problem recognition and compensation program creation. However, the history of both the black lung and RECA compensation programs demonstrates the importance of monitoring the implementation of such programs and the importance played by continued vigilance and political activism on the part of the victims.
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In assisting victims of technological disasters to become empowered, it is beneficial to have a collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and grassroots activists. In the following discussion, we will identify some of the roles each can play.
We contacted compensation program administrators to understand the history and changes that occurred. To trace the evolution of the programs was difficult. There were several different types of publications which documented different aspects of the programs, some of which were easily available and others not. Also, some program changes were made by Congress while others were made by the administering agency itself There were also numerous hearings, legislative reports, and special reports of scientific and administrative oversight committees. These processes could be more easily documented and understood if researchers would engage in program evaluation by studying a program throughout its life cycle rather than trying to reconstruct a retrospective analysis of the program.
In studying compensation programs, researchers could aid claimants by providing important program information and analyses. For example, RECA administrators assumed that uranium workers worked a five-day week; consequently, exposure requirements are based on that assumption. However, upon speaking with a uranium mine health and safety director, he observed that most miners actually worked a six-day week (Vernon J. Bishop, personal communication, October 3, 1997). This would automatically underestimate the amount of exposures experienced by most miners. Had research been conducted during the initial development of the compensation program, this oversight may not have occurred.
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In addition, there is a need to study individuals/families/communities who perceive that they have been victimized by environmental and/or occupational exposures. This is true especially for working class and minority populations which likely have the fewest resources available to them to fund such studies (see Bullard, 1990, 1993; Rogge, 1994).
Social work practitioners and other professional organizers have much to contribute to the recognition of environmental and occupational problems as well as the compensation process itself at all levels of practice. At the micro level Silver (1994), as part of her recommendations, suggests that social workers in clinical intervention recognize the impact of occupational disease among clients and also advocate on their behalf Biopsychosocial assessments, including detailed worksite and exposure histories need to be included in client intervention. Furthermore clients need to be counseled about accurate risk appraisals, And finally, social workers need to be advocates for their clients, referring them to appropriate health care professionals as needed.
At the mezzo and macro levels of practice, Kaufmann (1994) advocates that social workers and other organizers engage in various roles, including serving as translators between the community and the relevant agency personnel; understanding what can bring people into the participatory process and mobilizing them; bringing the public into the process early; building relationships with the relevant political officials; and networking with other more established environmental organizations. Rogge and Darkwa (1996), at the international level, suggest that social workers be involved in campaigning for meaningful public participation, working toward the institutionalization of access to resources, and initiating legal and policy actions.
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McNutt and Hoff (1994) further suggest that social workers need to establish linkages with social movements as they once did in the past. The green and social justice movements are two examples of how social workers may be linked in the fight for equity and the rights of communities to live in clean and healthful environments (McNutt, 1991).
Practitioners may also develop important linkages with researchers. In order for compensation programs to be enacted, it is necessary to show cause-and-effect relationships between exposures and health problems. Social workers can aid in this process by identifying at-risk populations who either have not been studied previously or who may have been studied inadequately.
This review of the literature shows that a proactive approach of continued vigilance is needed during the development, implementation, and administration of compensation programs. Activists need to be organized, fully aware of program operations, and understand the extent of program policy changes and their effects upon claimants and beneficiaries. Because of the nature of compensation, once people receive benefits they are likely to withdraw from the movement. Therefore it is necessary to create a more permanent climate, whereby activism may be carried out over time. We saw this among the uranium miners and millworkers' movement. The Navajo uranium workers, on average, were much more organized and committed to activism over the long term than were the non-Indian uranium workers. For example, Charley and Harrison, who began their activism by helping to organize support groups among the miners later went on to organize uranium millworkers and aid us in our research. Furthermore, Timothy Benally, a former Navajo uranium miner and past director of the Office of Navajo Uranium Workers, is now the director of the Uranium Education Center at Dine College in Shiprock, NM. The Center assesses the needs of communities that were impacted by uranium mining and milling. This provides an important educational service which empowers community members across the Navajo Nation (Brugge, 1997). These efforts have brought about a high degree of effective grassroots participation and should be emulated by others in the future.
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(Footnote 1 return)
Dr. Bernie Wolf and Merril Eisenbud, Medical Survey of Colorado Ray Materials Area, to P.C. Leahy, Manager, Colorado Area Office, A.E.C. (July 19, 1948).
(Footnote 2 return)
Duncan Holaday, et al., Interim Report of a Health Study of the Uranium Mines and Mills, U.S. Public Health Service and the Colorado State Dept. of Public Health (May 1952).
(Footnote 3 return)
The mining and milling of vanadium necessarily involved the extraction of uranium ore, and thus exposure to radon and all other hazards associated with uranium mining and milling.
(Footnote 4 return)
However, to make this particular provision meaningful, the claiman must be allowed to submit evidence in support of his claim (both as to exposure and as to the medical/causal relationship between his condition and the exposure). As RECA currently does not allow for such evidence, the Navajo Nation supports the additional amendment contained in HR. 3539 that would allow the introduction of such evidence.
(Footnote 5 return)
See Arthur Tamplin & Leonard Fisher, Estimation of Dosage to Thyroids of Children in the U.S. from Nuclear Tests Conducted in Nevada during 1952 through 1955, Lawrence Radiation Lab, Univ. of California, Livermore Bio-Medical Research Division, May 10, 1966. UCRL14707.