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Health ills near N-plants to be probed

SHARE Health ills near N-plants to be probed

U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson says he will investigate reports of health problems among people living near or working at federal nuclear weapons plants and research facilities in 11 states.

A total of 410 people told The Tennessean they are suffering from unexplained illnesses including tremors, memory loss, fatigue and a variety of breathing, muscular and reproductive problems. Their doctors cannot explain why they are sick.No direct link has been established between the illnesses and the Department of Energy sites. But doctors, scientists and lawmakers say it's large enough to warrant a comprehensive study to try to find the cause.

"My view is we ought to get to the bottom of this," Richardson told the newspaper after meeting Friday with residents near the Rocky Flats nuclear site in Denver. "I want to be absolutely sure we're erring on the side of making sure there are no problems."

Scientists have been concerned for decades about radiation from nuclear production and its link to cancer. But no one has ever looked into noncancerous illnesses.

During a 22-month investigation, the newspaper found ill people at 13 DOE sites in Tennessee, Colorado, South Carolina, New Mexico, Idaho, New York, California, Ohio, Kentucky, Texas and Washington.

The Energy Department had earlier said it does not plan to take a comprehensive look at the issue.