March 24, 2014 | Queens College
— QC Has Provided Medical Screenings to More Than 30,000 Workers —
FLUSHING, NY, March 19, 2014 – Since 1998 when the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems (CBNS) at Queens College began its Worker Health Protection Program (WHPP), more than 30,000 nuclear weapons workers in seven states have received free medical screenings. Queens College conducts the program in conjunction with the United Steelworkers and the Atomic Trades and Labor Council labor unions and regional medical providers. This early detection of work-related lung cancers and other illnesses has saved lives.
This innovative occupational disease screening program will continue as a result of the renewed funding of $8.168 million from the United States Department of Energy (DOE).
The first goal of the Worker Health Protection Program is to detect work-related illnesses at an early stage when medical intervention can be the most helpful. The second goal is to provide an occupational medicine evaluation that may help workers obtain compensation through the Energy Employees Occupational Compensation Program, which Congress established in 2000 for DOE workers with occupationally related illnesses.
Queens College offers screenings to former DOE workers from 13 DOE nuclear facilities in New York, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Nevada, California and Idaho. Physicians trained in occupational medicine are used to identify work-related conditions such as asbestosis, chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, cancer, hearing loss, and chronic beryllium disease, all of which can be caused by the toxic substances used in a wide range of occupational activities throughout DOE work sites.
Over 12,000 workers have been screened specifically for lung cancer, making it one of the largest occupational lung cancer-screening programs in the world. Since 2000, Queens College has pioneered the use of low-dose computed tomography (CT) scanning for the early detection of occupational lung cancer among DOE workers who were exposed to asbestos, radiation beryllium, and other lung carcinogens. Low-dose chest CT scanning can identify lung cancers when they are small and can be surgically removed, reducing the likelihood of death.
To date, the Worker Health Protection Program has found over 100 lung cancers, with three-quarters in early and treatable stages. In 2013, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, a federally funded committee of independent medical experts, endorsed the use of low-dose CT scans for early lung cancer detection among high-risk individuals, which is expected to lead to expanded insurance coverage of lung cancer screening.
“We are pleased that the Department of Energy continues to support the work that we do,” says Steven Markowitz, M.D., Director of CBNS and WHPP. “More important, we are gratified that we are able to help so many people understand the truth about how their work might have affected their health. We are especially proud of how many people we have saved from dying of lung cancer, a terrible and lethal disease. We started CT screening in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio 14 years ago, and now the world is catching up to us!”
The Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College, City University of New York, is an environmental and occupational health research institute that identifies and help rectify environmental and occupational threats to human health. Its researchers continue to monitor and address the health risks of first responders at the World Trade Center, as well as workers in U.S. nuclear bomb plants. CBNS recently completed a four-year project monitoring air quality at street level throughout the city. Its director, Steven Markowitz, is an occupational medicine physician (MD and doctorate in epidemiology from Columbia University) who also serves on the faculty of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.