The Atomic Energy Act of 1957 — Section 8(a) requires research and development activities relating to the protection of health during research and production activities. The requirement is fulfilled by conducting and supporting health studies and other research activities to determine if DOE workers and people living in communities near DOE sites are adversely affected by exposures to hazardous materials from DOE operations; by enabling appropriate responses to disease outbreaks and radiation accidents; and to address critical research needs for important occupational exposures. The ultimate use of the information is to protect and promote the health of DOE workers, their families and residents of neighboring communities and to share the information and data with the public
- Conduct priority epidemiologic investigations to assess the human health implications of exposures to hazardous materials for workers within the DOE complex and in communities that host facilities.
- Coordinate with and support epidemiologic studies and other public health activities by various agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services to assess the health implications of exposures to hazardous materials found in the DOE workplace.
- Determine the need for epidemiologic studies or public health activities based on reviews of analytic and descriptive epidemiologic studies, other public health activities, and information from site profiles.
- Analyze historical trends in worker illness and injury surveillance data for workers at participating sites across the DOE complex.
- Develop, maintain, and support unique registries of DOE workers to understand the development and progression of health outcomes associated with exposures to specific hazardous materials of particular interest to DOE. These are the Beryllium Associated Worker Registry and the U.S. Uranium and Transuranium Registries. Monitor the research use of archived blood and tissues from participants in the Department's medical screening initiatives for Beryllium sensitization and disease.
- Communicate health effects information and the results of studies to all interested stakeholders within and outside DOE.
- Provide expert guidance to the DOE Biological Events Monitoring Team concerning communicable disease outbreaks and spread through the DOE complex, including influenza, and represent DOE on Federal work groups for National preparedness and response to Weapons of Mass Destruction.
- Enhance the DOE capacity to protect the health of workers involved in radiation accidents by supporting the Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site that provides training in radiation medicine and medical consultation to site physicians, manage the stockpile of medical countermeasures, and participation in the National response to radiation accidents.
- Make research data available to the public through the Comprehensive Epidemiology Data Resource; a repository for data used in epidemiologic studies of DOE and other workers.
Beryllium is a silver-gray metallic element found in approximately 30 minerals. It has applications in the electronics and aerospace industries as well as uses in nuclear weapons, experimental reactors, and accelerators. Exposure to beryllium is not without potential health consequences. Inhalation of beryllium fumes or dust or contact with broken skin can lead to a range of respiratory responses from sensitization to chronic, progressive lung impairment via granuloma formation, as in chronic beryllium disease (CBD). CBD can be treated but is not curable. Sensitization to beryllium can be assessed with a blood test called the Beryllium Lymphocyte Proliferation Test (BeLPT). A positive test suggests that an individual has become sensitized to beryllium, although most people exposed to beryllium won’t become sensitized. When an initial BeLPT is positive, a second test is recommended to reduce the possibility that a diagnosis will be made based on erroneous results from the first test.
Given the potential health consequences associated with beryllium exposure, the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 10, Part 850 Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program requires DOE sites to inventory and assess beryllium exposure hazards to determine whether employees are at risk for CBD. In response, the DOE Office of Domestic and International Health Studies supports the operation of a surveillance registry of current workers who are exposed to beryllium in their current jobs or may have been exposed to beryllium in the past from work conducted at a DOE site. The DOE Beryllium-Associated Worker Registry (BAWR) is a collection of health and exposure information on individuals potentially at risk for CBD due to their work at DOE-owned or leased facilities. The goal of the registry is to determine the incidence and prevalence of beryllium sensitization and CBD. An additional goal is to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of DOE's Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program. The BAWR continues to monitor workers either exposed or at risk for exposure to beryllium and to assess the occurrence of sensitization and CBD diagnoses to determine the effectiveness of exposure prevention programs.
The annual dashboard summarizes data cumulative through the most recent calendar year with complete reporting from sites that have determined that employees are at risk due to ongoing or past work. These sites have implemented CBD prevention programs that include the reporting of health and exposure data to the DOE BAWR. The data at hand provide a basic evaluation of worker protection in beryllium work, both historical and current. Analyses in this dashboard may indicate areas of substantial success and provide information that could be of use in identifying areas in which further work may be of benefit in the prevention of CBD.
The most recent dashboard is for Calendar Year 2019: Beryllium-Associated Worker Registry Dashboard (through 2019) (orau.gov)
For further information on the Beryllium-Associated Worker Registry, please contact: Dr. Linh Duong.
UNITED STATES TRANSURANIUM AND URANIUM REGISTRIES (USTUR)
The USTUR is a human tissue research program studying the uptake, translocation and retention, and tissue dosimetry of uranium, plutonium, americium, and other actinides in occupationally exposed Registrants who volunteer portions of their bodies or their whole bodies for scientific use posthumously. The USTUR donors had typically worked at government sites include Hanford, Rocky Flats, Los Alamos, Savannah River, Fernald, and Mound during the development of nuclear weapons or during the cold-war years.
The USTUR is a major component of DOE’s long-standing programs to ensure that radiological protection standards for occupational exposures are protective of worker health. The USTUR missions are:
- Follow up occupationally-exposed individuals (volunteer Registrants) by studying the biokinetics (deposition, translocation, retention, and excretion) and tissue dosimetry of uranium and transuranium elements, such as plutonium, americium, curium, and neptunium.
- Obtain, analyze, preserve, and make available for future research, materials from individuals who had documented intakes of uranium and transuranium elements.
- Apply USTUR data to refine dose assessment methods in support of reliable epidemiological studies, radiation risk assessment, and regulatory standards for radiological protection of workers and general public.
- USTUR web site https://ustur.wsu.edu
For more information, please contact Dr. Joey Zhou.
RADIATION EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE CENTER/TRAINING SITE (REAC/TS)
Working with radioactive materials carries significant risk of exposure both externally and internally as a result of workplace accidents. The DOE approach to manage the response to accidents is to have a robust rapid response team and trained responders in place across the DOE complex. REAC/TS provides the rapid response in a radiological/nuclear event, training of first responders in radiation emergency medicine, and medical advice to the Occupational Medicine Programs in DOE/NNSA regarding the medical management of radiation incidents. REAC/TS operates a Cytogenetic Biodosimetry Laboratory and maintains a Radiation Accident Registry.
REAC/TS also provides direct support for the NNSA’s Office of Emergency Operations, Office of Counterterrorism & Counterproliferation, the Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center, and DOE’s Office of Science.
For more on REAC/TS:
For more information on the EHSS-10 role, please contact Dr. Joey Zhou.
COMPREHENSIVE EPIDEMIOLOGIC DATA RESOURCE (CEDR)
Operating as a data repository for researchers and educators, CEDR is a prime example of the Department's commitment to worker and community health programs. The internet presence and capabilities of CEDR facilitate the sharing of information and de-identified data collected during DOE-supported epidemiologic, environmental, and related health studies. CEDR supports the Department of Energy's STEM Program to encourage students pursuing degrees and/or careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. CEDR data are used by students and university teaching staff in the health sciences, biostatistics, and other allied disciplines.
CEDR's large collection primarily pertains to occupational epidemiologic studies conducted at many nuclear weapons plants, such as Hanford, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Rocky Flats, and Savannah River. They include working and analytic data files from cohort and case-control design studies, many of which have individual-level radiation exposure measurements. These valuable data have many possibilities for future research exploration. Additionally, CEDR presents data from studies of past DOE releases of hazardous materials that entered the environment of nearby communities, as well as data from classic studies of radiation health effects, such as the radium dial painters. The sharing of these data, at no cost to the user, encourages independent scientific inquiry and diversity of analyses.
Becoming an authorized user is a simple process. Data files in CEDR are available to those who wish to conduct statistical modeling or explore the data for research or educational purposes. The application forms, submitted electronically, require contact information and a brief statement of the research purpose or statistical application for which the data will be used. The application process requires only a form submitted to the Department of Energy. The CEDR application and the CEDR catalog are accessible at https://oriseapps.orau.gov/cedr/. The CEDR catalog site also has links to a tour of CEDR on YouTube.
CEDR "authorized" user account information and data are protected by the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 800-53, state-of-the-art governmental cyber-security rules that ensure CEDR data is secure, trustworthy, and resilient.
For more information about the CEDR program, please contact Dr. Linh Duong.
BERYLLIUM BIOBANK (FORMERLY BERYLLIUM BIO-REPOSITORY)
Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD), which may result from occupational exposure to beryllium, has been one of the serious health problems affecting the former and current DOE workforce. As yet, there is no animal model to study the disease; current research to improve the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of beryllium-related disease depends entirely on studies of human cells and tissues. Funded by the DOE Office of Health and Safety, the Beryllium BioBank initiative has evolved from an initial phase (the Beryllium Bio-Repository) focused on development of a standard protocol for data collection and management developed by a committee of expert clinicians and scientists from National Jewish Health, University of Pennsylvania Hospital, University of California Los Angeles, University of California San Francisco, University of Colorado, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Mayo Clinic. The initiative has matured into the Beryllium BioBank (Phase 2) managed by National Jewish Health.
The goal of the Beryllium BioBank is to archive important clinical specimens and related data to ensure their future availability for research to improve our understanding of beryllium-related disease. The participants in this program are all volunteers and have given their written consent for the use of their donated bio-samples. Based on the current number of workers who were diagnosed with CBD or beryllium sensitization (BeS) and matching controls, the total number of donors for the Repository is estimated at 1,200 to 1,500 individuals.
Phase 2 (tissue donations and storage) involved the participation of the five clinical centers which have conducted clinical evaluations for the majority of current and former DOE workers suspected of having CBD: National Jewish Medical and Research Center, University of Pennsylvania Hospital, East Tennessee Pulmonary Associates, University of California Los Angeles, and University of California San Francisco. Donations of blood and tissue samples have been obtained from individuals diagnosed either with CBD or BeS, as well as matching control individuals (those exposed to beryllium but without sensitivity or disease). In addition, other medical information related to CBD and BeS, occupational work histories, and exposure information have been collected. All biological specimens and clinical data were de-identified at the clinical centers before being banked and stored.
For further information on the Beryllium BioBank, please contact Joey Zhou.
To apply for use of the BioBank data, please visit https://www.nationaljewish.org/treatment-programs/directory/prevention/beryllium/beryllium-biobank (Accessed in October 2018).
WORKER AND PUBLIC HEALTH ACTIVITIES
The aim of the Worker and Public Health Activities Program is to improve our understanding of the consequences of exposures to ionizing radiation and other hazardous materials to workers and to the public. One of the program's strategic objectives is to support studies related to current and past operations of DOE facilities that ascribe to the highest scientific standards and policies and to communicate the health effects into impact-driven practices for improving worker and public health. This objective strives to ensure that the studies and public health activities address the most relevant research pertaining to DOE operations and provide a framework for intervention. Periodic evaluation of the research via independent external peer review enhances this objective. DOE encourages publication in scientific peer-reviewed journals and presentations at scientific meetings.
The program promotes the health of the Department's workers and communities surrounding DOE sites by supporting: (1) Occupational health studies of DOE's historical workforce, (2) Historical dose reconstruction studies, which evaluate the risk to the public of past releases of radiation and chemicals around DOE's nuclear weapons facilities, and (3) Studies of communities located near DOE Superfund sites to determine if current contaminants in the environment could result in adverse human health effects.
In the Worker and Public Health Activities Program, information sharing is accomplished through an extensive communication network over the life of a study and beyond. Communication guidelines are set out in the Access Handbook (see link below). Completed and proposed studies are communicated through inter-agency agreements with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), specifically, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registries ATSDR), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH). Sharing extends to making the analysis database available in perpetuity to other researchers and the public through DOE's Comprehensive Epidemiologic Data Resource.
- Access Handbook - Conducting Health Studies at Department of Energy
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
- National Center for Environmental Health
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
For more information, please contact Dr. Linh Duong.