Eldorado Nuclear Retrospective Epidemiology Project. A Retrospective Study Of Uranium Workers From Mines, Mills, And Refinery

Abbatt, John D. ; Newcombe, H. B.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1981
The Eldorado Epidemiology Project formally began in late 1978. It consists of a retrospective cohort study, to be followed by and to leave in place the mechanism for a prospective cohort monitoring program. These present and future activities are intended to merge into one another. The current study includes all Eldorado employees past and present for whom records are available. The objectives of the undertaking are - 1) to obtain cause-and-effect, dose-response data with which to evaluate the risks to workers in radon and radon daughter containing atmospheres, and to provide additional quantitative information on which to base possible improvements in working conditions; 2) to identify any dead employees of E.N.L. whose cause of death suggests that a potential compensation claim right exists for their survivors, and to similarly identify living ex-employees of E.N.L. whose work histories and states of health suggest potential compensation claim rights. The nature of the study has been determined by the history of Eldorado, which will be described briefly. Eldorado began (as Eldorado Gold Mines) in the late 1920's, operating relatively unsuccessfully in Manitoba. In 1930-31 the emphasis shifted from gold to uranium, and what became the Port Radium mine was first staked. From the very early 1930's until 1942 the company's purpose was almost entirely devoted to the mining of pitchblende - uranium ore - from the Port Radium site, and the extraction of radium from this ore at the Port Hope refinery in Ontario, a process from which the uranium was a largely stockpiled byproduct. In 1942 the company was requested by the Canadian government to accelerate the production of ore, and of uranium. At the same time, all its stockpile of uranium (then being stored in silos as a "waste" product which might later "come in") was acquired for the Manhattan Project. In 1944 the company shares were bought by the Canadian government and the company itself became Eldorado Mining and Refining (1944) Limited; it has operated as a Crown corporation ever since. The name was changed to Eldorado Nuclear Limited in 1968. The Port Radium mine was closed in 1960, and since 1953 the Beaverlodge uranium mine complex has operated on the northern shores of Lake Athabasca. Radium production was discontinued in 1954 when the radium circuit was taken out of the refinery, and since that time the refinery's products have been various types of refined uranium (uranium dioxide, uranium trioxide and uranium hexafluoride) plus metallic uranium. The refinery, of course, processes the company's own yellowcake but as it is one of only five refineries in the western world, most of its work consists of custom refining for a large variety of customers. In addition to the mining and the refining operations, there have been three other divisions involved, and these are, respectively, Aviation, R. & D., and Exploration, in addition to the financial, corporate, administrative and support activities. MATERIAL AND METHODS The human study population (Abbatt, J.D. et al., 1980) consists of all Eldorado employees who have ever worked for E.N.L. and for whom records are available. The total nominal roll to December 31, 1980 is approximately 21,000 and consists of employees of the Mining, Refining, R. & D., Aviation and Exploration Divisions, as well as a relatively small number of other employees (Head Office, etc.). The basic epidemiologic design, as has been mentioned, is for a retrospective cohort study merging into a prospective cohort study, and depending very heavily upon automated record linkage and file matching. The original design called for an initial assembly of the bulk of the nominal roll, prior to the first of two matches with the National Mortality File. The first of these two matches is now complete and the second is to be separated from it in time by 18 months to two years. The second match will be the definitive match prior to the analysis, the interpretation of the data, and the publication of the results. The period between the two matches was designed to permit completion of the nominal roll, including: - addition of previously missing individuals and groups, elimination of duplicates, and amplification of identifying information, - assembly of work histories and exposure information for each individual, - digestion and application of lessons and modifications resulting from the first match with the National Mortality File at Statistics Canada, - preparation of files for the definitive second match. The analysis of data will be carried out by the National Cancer Institute of Canada Epidemiology Unit based at the University of Toronto. This group, with whom Eldorado Nuclear has a memorandum of understanding, have for a variety of reasons, including their familiarity with record linkage and their expertise, been members of the Project Team since
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