Letters to the Editor

Letter: No one knows for certain what Hanford tank farm workers exposed to

In this photo from March 6, 2013, workers labor at the C Tank Farm at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, near Richland.
In this photo from March 6, 2013, workers labor at the C Tank Farm at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, near Richland. Associated Press file

The management of Hanford tank farm worker exposure to chemical vapors has a serious flaw regarding what happens after a worker has been exposed to those vapors — no one knows for certain what the worker was exposed to.

This information gap could be filled by the use of customizable dosimeters that are sensitive to the chemical vapors, not radiation.

A dosimeter that is sensitive to the several types of potential chemical vapors at a specified work site would provide valuable medical information in the event of an actual exposure. With this information, appropriate medical treatments could be provided to the worker and it would be possible to better account for the cumulative effects of multiple exposures.

Protocols for the use of chemical dosimeters might take a hint from protocols developed for the radiation dosimeters that were once common at Hanford.

This closes the loop on managing chemical vapor exposures for individual workers. First, prevent the exposure. If that fails, then you must absolutely know what the worker was exposed to. Finally, you customize medical treatment according to the individual’s history of exposures and manage future work assignments according to that history. This last item will require particular sensitivity.

Richard F. Hart Jr., Richland

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