A nationwide search is on to find former employees at a federal lab in Ames that may’ve been exposed to harmful substances. Doctor Laurence Fuortes of the University of Iowa says the Ames Lab was a key research facility in the Manhattan Project that built the first nuclear weapons.
Fuortes says the Ames Lab processed thousands of pounds of uranium ore until that process was sent elsewhere. He says the lab later produced thorium, another radioactive metal, for the defense industry. And Fuortes says the lab later worked with beryllium. Fuortes is now heading up the project to find workers who toiled at the lab from 1942 through 1960.
Fuortes says they’re trying to find the over 10-thousand former Ames Lab workers to allow them to get a medical screening allowed by the Department of Energy. Fuortes says they do the screenings in Iowa City, Burlington and Ames. Fuortes says the government paid screenings came out of a settlement with the Burlington arms and ammunition factory that used to make atomic weapons.
Fuortes says they want to be sure that all former Ames Lab employees are checked for problems, some of which may not be apparent. He says you could have sensitization to beryllium and have no symptoms, or you could have evidence of an occupational lung disease and have very few symptoms. Or Fuortes says you could have lung disease and be a non-smoker and not know why you had the disease.
Fuortes says they’re not just looking for the workers. He says they’re also trying to assist the families of the former workers, especially those form the early years who might have died. Fuortes says they can go through the medical records of the new dead workers and see if there might be a claim for compensation due to work related illnesses. Fuortes asks former workers, or their family members to get ahold of his program.
Fuortes says they can call a toll-free number: 1-866-282-5818 to find our more or ask any questions about the program. Fuortes says they’ve just been working on finding the Ames Lab employees after working for several months with the former Burlington employees. Fuortes says it’s harder to get the word out to Ames Lab workers, because it’s a facility at the college and many of them worked only a short time as students or faculty. And with the work going back to the 1940’s, many of the workers are dead, and they’re trying to find surviving family members.
Fuortes says the health screening includes a health and work history questionnaire, general blood tests, a blood test for beryllium sensitization, urinalysis, lung function tests and chest X-rays, if needed. Participants will receive their test results and will be informed of any recommendations for follow-up medical care.