There were 53 press releases posted in the last 24 hours and 184,850 in the last 365 days.

New Mexico Politician Fights for Rights of Former Los Alamos Lab Workers

During an interview last week with The New Mexican, State House Speaker Ben Lujan told a reporter that his Stage 4 lung cancer was no doubt caused by the work he did at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Lujan, who has seen similar circumstances among former fellow workers at the lab, noted that “nothing else made sense” in regards to his lung cancer diagnosis. ” I never was a smoker, and my friend Ray Ruiz also worked up there with me and he had a similar situation,” Lujan stressed. “Other than that, I don’t see any other reason for me to have it.”

Lujan explained that he was once an ironworker on what locals refer to as “The Hill”, as was his buddy Ruiz, who died of lung cancer in 2004.  As an ironworker, Lujan was charged with the task of mixing dry asbestos powder into a wet solution. The powder would often become airborne during the mixing, but Lujan and fellow workers were not provided with masks or any other protective gear, he noted. A mask could have helped him avoid inhaling asbestos fibers.

Though it’s difficult to ascertain exactly how many LANL workers have developed various types of lung cancer, including mesothelioma - records aren’t that specific – over the years more than 10,000 applications for claims have been filed by 3,300 LANL employees. Thus far, the Department of Labor has paid  some $285 million in medical benefits and other compensation to those who worked at the lab, including both regular employees and contract workers.

Five years ago, Lujan formed a state agency to help workers file those claims and called it the Office of Nuclear Workers’ Advocacy. The politician, who friends and family members say is visibly weakened from his illness and will not seek re-election, believes the government holds responsibility for taking care of those who worked for their country. “I believe that it is the duty of the state of New Mexico to advocate and assist nuclear workers who have been exposed to toxic substances which have adversely affected their bodies, livelihood, and quality of life,” he told the media in 2007, the year the advocacy organization was formed.

But while Lujan says he is “certain” his disease is caused by his former contract work at LANL, officials there say it is “pure speculation”. Others know differently. Ray Ruiz’ widow, Harriet, says she has seen the same scenario too many times and has heard about countless former Department of Energy workers who are sick or have passed away due to what is clearly problems with occupational exposure to toxic materials.

Loretta Valerio, director of the aforementioned Nuclear Worker’s Advocacy Office agrees with Ruiz. She has already helped process 500 cases at her agency. The majority are related to work at LANL, she says.