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HHS Seeks Public Comment on Rules to Assist Compensation of Nuclear Workers for Job-Related Cancers

October 5, 2001
Contact: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health(NIOSH)
Fred Blosser, Media Relations (202)401-3749

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today asked for public comment on two rules under which the department will provide scientific expertise to assist in decision-making under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000. The two rules, "Methods for Radiation Dose Reconstruction" and "Guidelines for Determining the Probability of Causation," are published in today's Federal Register as an interim final rule and a notice of proposed rulemaking, respectively.

Under the Compensation Act, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is administering claims by current and former employees of nuclear weapons production facilities and their survivors who seek compensation for cancers caused by radiation exposures sustained in the performance of duty, chronic beryllium disease, and silicosis. The Act directs HHS to provide scientific information that DOL will use to evaluate claims by workers who seek compensation for certain cancers caused by occupational radiation exposures but are not requesting compensation under the "Special Exposure Cohort" provisions of the Act. The Special Exposure Cohort includes workers with specified cancers who were employed at specific sites designated in the Act.

"For a program as important as this, we have to bring the best scientific expertise we can to the table and move as quickly as possible," HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "With today's notices, we are taking steps to put some key processes in place immediately as we proceed with further steps to make sure that our products pass rigorous scientific scrutiny and public review."

The interim final rule specifies the methods that HHS will use in developing the scientific information that it will provide to DOL, and the proposed rule presents scientific guidelines that DOL would follow in making use of information from HHS:

  • The interim final rule establishes the methods that will be used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in estimating claimants' past occupational exposures to radiation, in cancer cases referred to CDC/NIOSH by DOL. That process is called dose reconstruction. The interim final rule allows CDC/NIOSH to proceed with dose reconstructions while public comments are received, reviewed, and incorporated into a final rule.
  • The notice of proposed rulemaking specifies the scientific guidelines that DOL would use in determining whether it is at least as likely as not that an energy employee's cancer was caused by occupational exposure to radiation at nuclear weapons production sites. That process is called determining the probability of causation. A final rule on probability of causation will go into effect after the public and an independent expert advisory board have had an opportunity to comment on today's proposal. To the extent that the science and data involve uncertainties, those uncertainties will be handled to the advantage of the claimant.

The methods and guidelines rely on well-established scientific procedures and principles for estimating radiation exposures and determining radiation-related cancer risks. They will take into account available radiation exposure and health data, including information obtained from the work sites and from parties with expertise on exposure conditions at the work sites, which includes the employees themselves. CDC/NIOSH is drawing on scientific models developed by the National Cancer Institute.

HHS is seeking public comment on the interim final rule on dose reconstruction within 30 days, and public comment on the proposed rulemaking on probability of causation within 60 days.

Comments should be sent to the CDC/NIOSH Docket Officer at CDC/NIOSH Docket Office, Robert A. Taft Laboratories, M/S C34, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226, or may be submitted electronically by e-mail to nioshdocket@cdc.gov.

The interim final rule and the notice of proposed rulemaking will be available online at www.cdc.gov/niosh. They also may be obtained through the toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674).

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at www.hhs.gov/news.

 

 
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