A medical screening report for former nuclear laboratory workers at the U.S. Department of Energy (this includes laboratory, production and construction workers) shows that hearing loss is the most common disorder. Close to 60% of those screened were found to be experiencing noise-induced hearing loss.
At nearly 3 out of 4 test sites, more than 50% of those screened were diagnosed with noise-induced hearing loss. At seven test sites, the number of people found to be experiencing noise-induced hearing loss was more than 2 out of 3. The three highest percentages were found at Iowa Army Ammunition Plant (83.3%), Nevada National Security Site (77%) and Paducah GDP (76.9%) respectively.
Not everyone was screened
Despite the fact that the purpose of the screenings is to “identify diseases or precursor conditions at an early stage of development of disease,” as the report states, not all former nuclear workers choose to undergo all available tests.
Nationwide in the US, more than 600,000 former workers are estimated to be eligible for the free screenings, including re-screenings at 3-year intervals. The screenings particularly want “to detect work related health effects from a wide range of potentially hazardous exposures” such as radiation, beryllium, lasers, solvents and noise.
Work related or not?
It is often not possible to determine whether a particular symptom or illness was work related. As an example, hearing loss can be a part of the aging process (age-related hearing loss) or can be a noise-induced hearing loss that can result from personal activities such as playing loud music or shooting guns. Some diseases can cause hearing loss. Genetic factors make some people more susceptible to hearing loss than others. Hearing loss may also occur as a result of the use of certain types of medication.
The full report can be found here: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/03/f20/2014_FWP_Annual_Report.pdf