Responsibilities and Activities of the US Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health

P.L. Ziemer (Purdue University)

The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act (EEOICPA) was passed by the U.S. Congress in October, 2000, and became effective on July 31, 2001. The Act provides for $150,000 in lump-sum compensation to workers who contracted certain diseases as a result of exposure to beryllium, silica, or radiation while working for the Department of Energy (DOE), its contractors, or subcontractors in the nuclear weapons industry. The Secretaries of Energy, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor share responsibilities for administering the compensation program. In October, 2001, President George W. Bush appointed an Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health in accordance with the provisions of EEOICPA and the Board began its work in January, 2002. The work of the Board is conducted with staff support provided by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH has established an Office of Compensation Analysis and Support (OCAS) that is responsible for developing scientific guidelines for determining whether a worker's cancer is related to occupational exposure to radiation (probability of causation), developing methods to estimate worker exposure to radiation (dose reconstruction), and establishing a process by which classes of workers can be considered for inclusion in a special exposure cohort. Executive Order 13179 specifies three primary duties for the Advisory Board. First, it is to advise the Secretary of HHS on the development of guidelines for dose reconstructions and determination of probability of causation. Secondly, the Board is to advise the Secretary on the validity and quality of dose reconstruction efforts performed for the program. Finally, the Board is to provide advice on whether there is a class of employees at any of the covered facilities who were exposed to radiation but for whom it is not feasible to estimate their radiation dose, and whether there is a reasonable likelihood that such radiation may have endangered their health. Over the first three years of its operation, the Advisory Board has provided substantial input on the rule-making activities of NIOSH. The Board is also establishing methodologies for auditing the dose reconstruction program so as to evaluate validity and quality of the program as required by the Executive Order. As part of this activity, the Advisory Board expects to sample and examine approximately 2 to 3 % of the completed dose reconstructions. Through December, 2004, over 17,000 claims have been submitted to NIOSH for dose reconstructions. Nearly 6000 of those have been completed and returned to DOL for final action. Random audits by the Advisory Board of approximately 1% of these are now underway.

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