Hanford Tank Workers Exposed to Vapors Speak Out - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Hanford Tank Workers Exposed to Vapors Speak Out

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NBC Right Now found out the Department of Energy didn't share just how bad some of the symptoms really were for Hanford tank workers exposed to chemical vapors. NBC Right Now found out the Department of Energy didn't share just how bad some of the symptoms really were for Hanford tank workers exposed to chemical vapors.

KENNEWICK, WA - NBC Right Now found out the Department of Energy didn't share just how bad some of the symptoms really were for Hanford tank workers exposed to chemical vapors.

The DOE says several tank farm workers were exposed to chemical vapors in the past week.

A retired Hanford worker tells NBC Right Now he talked with workers exposed to the vapors who described harsher symptoms than DOE shared in a release sent out Tuesday.

NBC Right Now called the DOE many times Wednesday, but they refused to do an on camera interview and answer our questions.

DOE says workers complained of "coughing and throat irritation," they were then examined by doctors and some returned to work. 

NBC Right Now talked with a Hanford retiree who spoke with workers exposed to the vapors. Mike Geffre retired from Hanford in November and now does consulting work for Hanford Challenge, a group that voices Hanford worker concerns.

Geffre says the workers he spoke with are concerned about how DOE is handling the exposures.

"Through the last 20 years, occasionally you have one or two people that have exposure to tank vapors, but last week there was eleven. They were concerned there was some kind of trend that was being set or that something wasn't being done to look at the situation more closely," said Geffre.

He says workers exposed to the vapors told him they suffered from severe headaches, sinus and respiratory issues, and even coughing up blood.

"One coworker continued to have severe coughing fits and was in route to see his personal physician because he was coughing up blood," Geffre said.

Geffre says there are 1,800 chemicals in the tanks making it hard to know what the workers are exposed to.

He says workers tell him they worry about the lasting damage done to their bodies.

"People I did talk to we're concerned and scared about their own health. I think they're worried about the long term effects," Geffre said.

Geffre says vapor exposure can happen when tank vapors are released and pushed back toward the ground by the weather or if filters don't capture the vapors.

Workers told Geffre they want vapor monitors installed by the DOE to alert them of the threat.

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