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Project on Government Oversight




Los Alamos Workers Exposed to Hazardous Chemical Fumes

August 10, 2005 


Two post doctoral employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory “were exposed to hazardous chemical vapors,” resulting in one being hospitalized for six days according to an Occurrence Report obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). This is the second serious incident at the Lab POGO has reported on this week. A copy of the report can be viewed here.

According to an unconfirmed version of the event, one employee who was contaminated was told to keep working even though she complained of feeling dizzy. She then went on vacation and experienced severe respiratory problems. As a result, she had to be hospitalized for six days. According the Occurrence Report, the second employee experienced symptoms which subsided.

On Monday, POGO reported that an incident involving workers being exposed to a deadly radioactive material had spread to locations in four states. One source says that the Lab has already spent $1 million on the clean up resulting from the contamination incident which took place on July 14. It is still unclear what measures the Lab is taking to discover what other public sites – grocery stores, gas stations, etc – may be contaminated from this incident.

Despite the severity of these incidents, the Lab continues to downplay the dangers to the workers and the public. Today the Lab issued a press release on this latest lapse in health and safety.

Last year, Lab operations were fully shut down following a series of security and safety lapses, including an incident where a student’s eye was damaged by a laser beam (click here to view that story). “ Los Alamos spent at least $500 million in taxpayer dollars to get their safety and security standards beefed up. All the evidence we’ve seen so far this year is that they have failed miserably,” said Danielle Brian, Executive Director of POGO.

At one point last year, the Department of Energy had estimated the cost of the shut down was $367 million to the taxpayer. According to the Los Alamos Monitor, the former director of Los Alamos, Pete Nanos, testified to “Congress that he did not believe the University of California should pay for the costs of a lengthy suspension of operations at the laboratory.” In a letter to the Department of Energy in November, the Project On Government Oversight had pegged the estimate to at least $500 million which included ancillary costs.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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