154565 Inequalities in the Nuclear Age

Monday, November 5, 2007

Kim A. Angelon-Gaetz, MSPH , Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
David Richardson, PhD , Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Steve Wing, PhD , Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
The Civil Rights Movement opened jobs previously inaccessible to women and people of color. Unfortunately, these workers were sometimes placed in more dangerous positions than their Caucasian, male counterparts. Few quantitative studies have explored the relationship between changes in employment demographics and hazardous occupational exposures among people of color and women. This study compares radiation exposure of African Americans versus Caucasians of both sexes, and female versus male workers of all races to discover the effects on exposure of female and African American workers moving into jobs traditionally held by Caucasian males. Demographic, employment history, and radiation dosimetry information are examined for a cohort of 18,883 workers hired between 1950 and 1986, at Savannah River Site nuclear weapons facility in South Carolina. Regression models are used to assess differences in radiation exposures over time by race and gender, accounting for pay status, job title, and work location. 19% of the cohort is female and 13% is African American. Average doses were higher for men (217.7 millirem, mrem) than women (73.1 mrem). However, the mean dose for women increased in the 1970s when average dose for men was decreasing. Average radiation doses for African Americans (169.7 mrem) are lower than that for Caucasian workers (206.2 mrem); however, after 1972, average doses for African American workers were consistently higher. This study's results inform understanding of the impact of historical changes in the division of labor on occupational exposure and suggest consideration of strategies to prevent future overburden of exposure in vulnerable populations.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe how changes in social structure surrounding the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s affected the employment of people of color and women working in industry. 2. Assess critically whether occupational safety standards are maintained for all workers regardless of race or sex. 3. Discuss social, operational and fiscal factors that lead to higher radiation exposures in workers. 4. List the health outcomes that are related to increased penetrating radiation doses in nuclear facility workers. 5. Apply this awareness of potential discrimination in exposure dosage allowance to industries today (such as the poultry and swine industries) that are experiencing demographic changes due to the influx of Hispanic workers.

Keywords: Occupational Exposure, Vulnerable Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.