Falsified radiation data or medical records have been documented at other labs, including in 2003 at Savannah River Site in South Carolina and Hanford Site in Washington state. Radiation records also were falsified at an Ohio nuclear facility in 2013. The Department of Energy fined lab managers in South Carolina and Ohio more than $200,000 each for “willful falsification.”
Los Alamos has not been fined for willful falsification of health records, but it has been cited within the past year for serious safety violations and for failing to check laboratory rooms for toxic chemicals before allowing workers to enter. Internal incident reports from the early 2000s, obtained by NIOSH, described how records had been removed from radiation log books, “deliberate tampering” with nasal swipe samples (used to test if a worker inhaled radioactive particles) and problems with workers not wearing their radiation badges.
Soon after Chad’s diagnosis, another electrician on his crew, Cesario Lopez, told Chad he’d recently had part of his kidney taken out after being diagnosed with cancer. Both Lopez’s mother and uncle, who worked at the lab before him, had been diagnosed with cancer, too. Lopez applied for and was denied compensation by the Department of Labor but has appealed.
Mondragon believes some of the zeroes are also the result of being told, by his supervisors, to take his badge off when he was doing work in contaminated places. “Now I know better,” he said, “but it’s too late.”
Roark, the lab spokesman, denies workers were ever told to remove their badges, saying its “Radiation Protection Program would never allow, endorse or recommend removing dosimeters to avoid contamination.”
Ken Silver, who sits on a Department of Labor advisory board and is a professor of environmental health at East Tennessee State University, testified before Congressin 2007 that instructing workers to remove their radiation badges was a common practice for “cleanup crews” at Los Alamos in the past. Silver said this practice was based on the belief that if a badge was contaminated, workers would go on to spread radiation throughout the laboratory, which he called a “flimsy assumption.”