Hanford Cleanup Workers Worry About Toxic Vapors

Dozens of cleanup workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state — the most contaminated site in the nation — have registered complaints in the past two years about ammonia-laden vapors seeping up from waste tanks at the site. The workers blame the noxious fumes for a host of health problems ranging from nosebleeds to numb gums to black tongue, and they’re particularly worried about getting cancer. It’s thought that many more workers are also experiencing problems but haven’t come forward for fear of losing their jobs. The U.S. Department of Energy and the site’s cleanup contractor, CH2M Hill Hanford Group, claim the workers are safe and have refused some of their requests for protective masks, even while admitting they don’t know everything that’s in the vapors. Hanford is home to 177 buried tanks that hold 53 million gallons of A-bomb waste, a frightening mix of chemicals and radioactive materials.