The Worker Health Protection Program (WHPP) is funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the DOE Former Worker Medical Surveillance Program (FWP). The FWP was created by a Congressional mandate in the Defense Authorization Act of 1993, which directed the DOE to fund voluntary medical screening to workers of DOE's nuclear defense facilities. WHPP is one of several university-based programs that have received funding to provide this screening; it has been in operation since 1999 and serves former workers at 14 DOE sites (hyperlink).
United States nuclear operations began in the mid-1940's, starting with the Manhattan Project, increased throughout the Cold War, and continue today with civilian energy, remediation and research projects. Workers from DOE facilities may be at an increased risk of occupational illness due to exposure to ionizing radiation, beryllium, asbestos, volatile organic compounds and other toxic substances used in the development, production and maintenance of nuclear weapons. The primary goals of the Worker Health Protection Program are to detect illnesses at an early stage when medical intervention may be helpful and to have independent occupational medicine physicians determine if existing health conditions are occupational in origin. WHPP participants are offered ongoing medical surveillance and are eligible for follow-up screenings every three years.
WHPP is administered by the Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment at Queens College, in conjunction with the United Steelworkers (USW) and the Atomic Trades and Labor Council (ATLC). To date, WHPP has performed over 51,000 physical examinations among 31,000 former and current workers. WHPP examinations include tests for occupational conditions related to work at the DOE facilities, such as asbestosis, chronic beryllium disease, emphysema, hearing loss, silicosis and some cancers. When illnesses are found during the screening, WHPP physicians make recommendations for appropriate follow up treatment. Findings from WHPP physicals may also be useful to support state and federal workers' compensation claims, including the Department of Labor's Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP), a compensation program which was established solely for DOE facility workers: http://www.dol.gov/owcp/energy/