CINCINNATIUniversity of Cincinnati (UC) scientists say that a recent scientific study of a now-closed uranium processing plant near Cincinnati has identified a second, potentially more significant source of radon exposure for former workers.
That sourcesix silos filled with uranium ore in the production arearesulted in relatively high levels of radon exposure to 12 percent of the workers. More than half (56 percent) of the workers were exposed to low levels of radon while working at the site.
"Our findings have scientific and political ramifications," explains Susan Pinney, PhD, corresponding author of the study and associate professor of environmental health at UC. "Now we know workers in the plant's production area prior to 1959 may be at increased risk for developing lung cancer and other exposure-related health problems."
Third-shift plant workers were most affected, during some years being exposed to three times more harmful radon gas than workers on other shifts, according to the UC study. Researchers say the elevated exposure was the result of decreased air movement and less dispersion of radon gas during the night.
Pinney and Richard Hornung, PhD, recently reported their findings in the September issue of the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. This is the first time on-site radon exposure at the plant has been quantified in workers.
A previous study identified two silos, known by the code name "K-65," as the only source of radon exposure. The silos were located on the west side of the U.S. Department of Energy Uranium Processing Plant in Fernald.
"Our original intention was to develop and validate radon exposure estimates for the K-65 silos," explains Hornung. "But when we studied radon tracks on film placed on window glass in the Fernald plant, we found evidence of a second, previously unidentified radon source."
UC researchers traced the radon to six sil
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University of Cincinnati