Washington, DC—Today Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) implored the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health to do right by the Bethlehem Steel workers by finally giving them the compensation they are due because of exposure to toxic levels of radiation. In testimony submitted to the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health during their meeting on the Bethlehem Steel site profile meeting this week in Washington, DC, Higgins asked the Advisory Board to identify the Bethlehem Steel workers specifically as having been exposed to radiation and eligible for compensation. Higgins statement to the Advisory Board is below.
“I wanted to take the opportunity of your meeting in Washington, DC to appeal to the Advisory Board to recommend that the former workers at the Bethlehem Steel Site in Lackawanna, New York be designated a Special Exposure Cohort.
“As this Board is well aware, significant controversy exists with respect to the dose reconstruction efforts at the Bethlehem Steel site. NIOSH undertook an extensive effort on dose reconstruction, but I and my colleagues in the Western New York congressional delegation have gone on record as to the shortcomings of that study, a litany I will not take your time with today. Subsequently, the Board hired an independent private consultant to perform its own analysis, and the results were vastly different from the NIOSH study. Perhaps this is not surprising given the difficulty incumbent in reconstructing radiation exposure that occurred over 50 years ago.
“Meanwhile, during all of this debate, study, and re-study, the former, ill-stricken Bethlehem Steel employees and their families have waited patiently. They have waited for justice but all they have received are statistics and studies. These workers are not statistics – they are the men and women who, by their efforts, helped America win the Cold War. Now as a result of their work they are sick. They deserve to have their sacrifice honored and recognized, not minimized and trivialized.
“We must concede that given the dearth of reliable information we have on the working conditions at Bethlehem Steel over 50 years ago, despite NIOSH’s great efforts, any dose reconstruction is doomed to inadequately provide justice to these workers. The only just alternative available to us under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act is to make these workers a Special Exposure Cohort. My colleagues and I have introduced legislation to make this designation, but it is stuck in committee. We have appealed to the President to declare a special cohort administratively, but he has demurred.
“It is now up to this Board and the Department of Labor to do right by these workers, and to recommend a Special Exposure Cohort. You are the last, best hope that these workers will see justice; I implore you to act quickly.”