Hearing loss among former workers

k25viewThe Department of Energy’s 2014 annual report for the Former Worker Medical Screening Program contains a bunch of interesting information about worker health issues, and I’ll report more on this later.

One of the most widespread medical issues among former workers is hearing loss, and this is particularly notable among former production workers at the department’s gaseous diffusion plants — such as K-25 in Oak Ridge (pictured).

In fact, K-25 had some of the highest numbers. Out of 3,978 former production workers at K-25, 2,600 of the workers had noise-induced hearing loss. That’s 65.4 percent.

The other GDPs, such as Portsmouth and Paducah, also had significant numbers. And, having visited the Oak Ridge uranium-enrichment plant when it was operation, I can speak to the fact that these operations were loud, indeed.

As Donna Cragle, director of health. energy and environment at the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, said in an interview this afternoon, the hearing loss could be attributed to age and other things (such as attending high-decibel rock concerts).

Besides the gaseous diffusion plants, workers at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant also showed up with significant numbers.

Out of 3,538 former production workers at Y-12 who were screened, 2,450 (69.2 percent) showed evidence of noise-induced hearing loss.

Construction workers across the complex also had high hearing loss. For instance, at Hanford, 49 percent of former production workers had noise-induced hearing loss, but that percentage jumped to 69.5 percent for former construction workers at Hanford.

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