Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health has unanimously approved the petition for eligible retirees of Linde Ceramics facility for the illnesses caused from radiation exposure on the job between November 1, 1947 and December 31, 1953. During the Cold War, employees of Linde Ceramics were exposed to radioactive materials, which then caused a variety of cancers and other injuries in many of those exposed. For years, these workers and their surviving families have petitioned the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for compensation under the Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) program. Finally, Linde Ceramics has achieved SEC status which will eliminate the significant administrative burdens placed on workers, that nationwide have resulted in the denial of 68% of claims for compensation for these courageous men and women who dedicated their lives to the government in the Cold War effort.
“Linde Ceramics retirees and their family members are finally going to get the compensation they deserve for their selfless and patriotic service throughout the Cold War,” said Schumer. “Western New Yorkers put their own health and well-being on the line in order to protect the freedoms we cherish and unequivocally deserve this support. I’m thrilled with the Advisory Board’s unanimous recommendation to extend this compensation that is richly deserved.”
“Former employees from across Western New York have been neglected for far too long, and never should have had to scale a mountain of red tape or prove the un-provable before receiving the compensation they deserve,” said Senator Gillibrand. “These unsung heroes unknowingly sacrificed their health and wellbeing to advance our Cold War efforts during a critical time in our nation’s history. This is a step in the right direction for Linde retirees to get the long overdue compensation they deserve.”
During World War II and at the start of the Cold War, the federal government lacked the capacity to manufacture weapons in federal facilities and turned to the private sector for help. Workers at these facilities, including those in Western New York, like Linde Ceramics, handled radioactive materials. Although government scientists knew of the dangers posed by the radiation, workers were given little or no protection and many have been diagnosed with cancer as a result.
The Linde claimants have petitioned for the Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) program, which means that every claimant who grew ill from exposure to radioactive materials will be free from the “dose reconstruction” process which estimates how much radiation exposure they suffered. This is a difficult process, first due to the fact that it is based on incomplete employment and medical data from decades ago. Under the dose reconstruction process, individuals are awarded benefits of $150,000 if they prove a 50 percent or greater likelihood that their work-related radiation exposure caused them to get cancer. These significant administrative burdens placed on workers are also met with disappointing results: nationwide claimants using the dose reconstruction process have resulted in the denial of 68% of claims for compensation.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is responsible for accepting petitions to add classes of employees to the SEC program under Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). Currently, the EEOICPA requires workers to prove through dose reconstruction that their cancers resulted from radiation exposure, unless they fall under the SEC program. Creating this SEC designation for former Linde Ceramics employees will now spare them or their survivors from the arduous process of trying to individually prove that they or their loved ones were exposed to enough radiation to cause cancer. This will award them $150,000 in benefits if they worked at Linde Ceramics between 1947 and 1953.