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Radiation exposure allegedly not the cause of cancer among Asse employees
For years, the dispute about a possibly increased cancer risk in the vicinity of the dilapidated Asse nuclear waste dump. Asse employees who had cancer attributed their suffering to the radiation exposure and, like the locksmith Eckbert Duranowitsch, tried to claim their cancer as an occupational disease at the employer's liability insurance association.
After suffering from leukemia after three years as a locksmith in the Asse, Duranowitsch reported the former Asse operator, the Helmholtz Zentrum München, and tried to claim his cancer as an occupational disease. The locksmith criticized that for most Asse employees there were no protective clothing or dosimeters at the time. Since Duranowitsch was not the only Asse employee who went public with his cancer, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, which has been responsible for the Asse since early 2009, was forced to react and started the Asse health monitoring to determine the radiation exposure of the employees in the mine .
No cancers detectable due to radiation exposure. On Tuesday the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BFS) announced the results of the final second phase of the monitoring. For the affected Asse employees, however, this is more likely to be a bad joke, because the authority comes to the conclusion that no cancer cases due to radioactive radiation at work could be detected in the employees of the nuclear waste storage facility. "Their individual exposure to radiation from their work in the aces was too low to be proven to cause cancer, according to the state of the art," the FSO announced. The second phase of the monitoring confirmed the results of the first phase of the investigation, in which the FSO had already determined that the Asse employees' cancer could not be caused by the radiation exposure. The basis of the first evaluation up to the beginning of 2011 was the measurement and employment data of the Helmholtz Zentrum München for the almost 700 employees who worked in the Asse between 1967 and 2008. On the basis of the available data, the FSO calculated the so-called effective dose of radiation in millisievert in order to be able to make a statement about the exposure of Asse employees. The calculation also took into account the external radiation from the environment and from radionuclides on the skin as well as the internal exposure due to inhalation and ingestion.
Radiation exposure of the Asse employees below the planned limit The result of the first phase of the investigation was an anonymously determined exposure of the Asse employees between twelve and 115 millisieverts, with seven people who worked in the Asse in the beginning or for a longer period in the ailing one Nuclear waste storage were active, had a load of more than 100 millisieverts. All values were well below the “working life dose” of 400 millisieverts, which are permitted under the Radiation Protection Ordinance. However, it remains to be seen whether this exposure does not actually result in an increased health risk, as assumed by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection. The statement that “according to the state of the art” does not cause cancer diseases of this kind is of little help here. Because the state of science has changed considerably in recent decades. In the past, radiation doses were considered to be much higher and the limit values were repeatedly reduced due to new scientific knowledge. According to the FSO, it cannot be ruled out that employees who did not take advantage of the offer of an individual evaluation of their radiation exposure did experience higher radiation exposure, which at least leaves room for doubt as to the significance of the monitoring.
Criticism of the statements made by the monitoring The BFS experts had tried to close the existing data gaps that had been criticized a year ago in the first phase of the investigation by means of personal surveys and the definition of "substitute values". However, of the nearly 700 employees recorded in health monitoring, only 33 use the data supplement offer and only 22 of them completed the intended questionnaire. There are still uncertainties with regard to the significance of the monitoring. For this reason, too, most critics are unable to understand why the responsible authorities have repeatedly stated in the past that an increased risk of cancer due to radiation exposure to the aces can be excluded. Especially since the FSO also gave the same word-for-word answer to an increased cancer rate in the population around the dilapidated nuclear waste storage area at the end of 2010 and in principle ruled out a connection with the radiation exposure of the aces. However, as Leonardo da Vinci emphasized at the time, experience should be the real teacher of things. It is extremely questionable to rely on calculated values and thus free the Asse of a possible increase in the risk of cancer, although the cancer of the former Asse employees and the residents of the entire municipality of Asse cannot be dismissed. Especially since the critics made the assertion in the run-up to the monitoring that the authorities will only support their previous position with the monitoring. (fp)
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