Hanford downwinders health site launched

People who grew up downwind of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and who are concerned they now have thyroid problems have a new friend.

Potentially exposed individuals can now access the Hanford Community Health Project. The Internet accessible program has launched a new web site which offers easily understandable educational materials for those people who may have been exposed to radioactive iodine released from the Hanford site between 1944 and 1972 during plutonium production, according to project officials.

"The project offers educational resources to individuals and their family physicians," said Capt. Greg Thomas, a project spokesman.

He said the project is designed to provide up-to-date and accurate information which people can use as a research tool.

"Individuals can use the material to ask their doctors more informed questions about their possible exposure to the radioactive iodine," Thomas explained.

The web site - www.hanfordhealth.info - includes a self-assessment quiz to help individuals evaluate their potential for exposure.

In addition to launching the new web site, the Hanford Community Health Project has also mailed out updated treatment guidelines to health care providers throughout the state, alerting them to the Hanford Community Health Project.

"We are encouraging anyone concerned about exposure to visit the Project web site and sign up for the project mailing list," said Thomas, who serves as the technical program officer of the health project.

"Our goal is to provide educational materials and tools so downwinders can work with their doctors to make more informed health care choices," he explained.

Thomas said those who sign up for the quiz will received periodic updates on treatment options. The project was developed in response to a concern that people who may have been exposed to the radioactive materials weren't receiving accurate treatments, Thomas said,

It is estimated that children who were 5-years-old and lived in Adams, Benton or Franklin counties between 1944 and 1951 may have received the highest doses of the radioactive iodine and may be at risk for thyroid disease.

Today, those adults would be between the ages of 54 and 65.

Public health researchers have conducted extensive epidemiological research around the release of the radioactive iodine (I-131) at Hanford and the potential link to thyroid disease.

The Hanford Thyroid Study, published in June 2002, did not show any association between the Hanford I-131 releases and the occurrence of thyroid diseases. But other such studies, including investigation at Chernobyl and the Marshall Islands, have shown that exposure to radioactive iodine is associated with an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer and other thyroid related diseases.

Despite the findings of the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, downwinders remain concerned about the Hanford releases, explained Thomas.

"There is a demonstrated need in the community for more educational resources, and the Hanford Community Health Project is an answer to that need," he said.

Those who would like to learn more about the releases at Hanford or exposure to I-131 should visit www.hanfordhealth.info or call toll-free 1-800-207-3996 to request information and to sign up for the project mailing list.


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