Nuclear workers risk heart health

While solicitors in Belfast and Northern Ireland may be used to dealing with clients who have developed cancer from working with nuclear materials, there may be an even larger type of industrial illness in the sector.

Solicitors in Belfast and Northern Ireland may be interested to know that heart attacks may actually be more likely to hit nuclear workers than cancer, a new study shows.

In fact solicitors may only now be seeing the harm done to nuclear workers in Belfast and Northern Ireland who were exposed to relatively high levels of radiation over long periods before the 1980s, when the highest levels of exposure occurred.

Solicitors are likely to see such employees living with an increased risk of circulatory disease, the research by Westlakes Scientific Consulting shows.

Surveying 65,000 individuals employed at nuclear sites between 1946 and 2002, the firm found that employees with the highest levels of occupational exposure were more likely to die from circulatory disease.

Professor Steve Jones, corresponding author of the study, said: "What we have shown is an association between relatively high levels of occupational exposure to radiation and mortality from circulatory system disease.

"We do see there's a statistically significant effect. We see a higher mortality for those workers with the highest levels of occupational exposure compared to those with the lowest levels. If there's a real causal effect here, we could be looking at risks of circulatory disease that are comparable to or even greater than cancer risk."

However people in Belfast and Northern Ireland who have previously been employed in the nuclear industry should not rush to their doctors or their solicitors in a panic as the authors said more investigation is necessary.
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