IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Many of our neighbors go to work every day at the Idaho National Lab site.
Things have changed through the years -- but the reality remains that many former employees are at a higher risk for some deadly illnesses because of the work they've done.
Now a new component to the Department of Energy funded Worker Health Protection Program will provide free CT scans for early lung cancer detection in eligible former lab employees.
"Namely guys, for some reason, they think they're bullet proof," said former lab employee Gaylon Hansen. "You call them and they say, "I haven't had a medical exam for three or four years,' and they're proud of it, you know, 'I'm healthy as a horse.'"
As years go by, the occupational side effects of working closely with toxic substances like solvents and lead begin to show up, but it's knowledge that's power.
"We've had early detection in several folks and it gives a better quality of life for them," said Hansen.
Hansen worked at the INL for 35 years. He's an advocate for medical testing for former lab employees. Screenings for occupational illnesses began as part of the Worker Health Protection Program in 2000. On Wednesday, the program announced a new test for lung cancer.
"With this you get the initial screening and an every three- or four-year exam," said Hansen.
The new component now is low dose CT scans for early lung cancer detection.
"By the time you have the symptoms, then it's usually too late to change the course of the disease," said Queen's College physician Amy Manowitz.
Manowitz is the director of administration for the program in New York. Queen's College provides the screenings.
"Just knowing that you've saved someone's life like that is a feeling that can't be described," she said.
There is, of course, criteria former workers must meet to be eligible for the program. Appointments can be scheduled by calling the program at (208) 522-4748 or (800) 241-1199.