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FAA Employees Sick And Tired - Literally - Because Of Dangerous Air Quality - (6/19/1997)

FAA Employees Sick And Tired - Literally - Because Of Dangerous Air Quality BOSTON, Mass. - Pointing an accusatory finger toward the Federal Aviation Administration, a spokesperson for the controllers' union said it is not too strong a statement to say employees are dropping like flies at a major air traffic control facility near Boston. "The FAA is doing what it does best," said Mike Blake, National Air Traffic Controllers Association facility representative. "Placing money above the safety of its employees and American citizens. The FAA thinks nothing of exposing us to deadly carcinogens!" Since the 1980s, controllers, technicians, management and staff have suffered consequences of physical ailments - to the point of death - probably as a result of dangerous levels of asbestos and microbiological bacteria. That is according to an independent study of the FAA's Boston Center, specifically its control wing where 400 controllers, technicians and staff work, some around the clock, but also throughout the 500-person strong building. "Employee issues and concerns have ranged from sinus problems, allergies, headaches, nausea, fatigue and long term health effects such as lung cancer and asbestosis. Last year, the facility lost a member to lung cancer. Everyday, I hear about another employee or retiree who contracted cancer of one type or another, yet the agency continues to drag its feet," Blake said. "It's favorite M.O. is to agree to just one band aid fix after another, hoping we'll keep quiet and not blow the whistle on the agency's crass abuse of workers." NATCA requested an indoor air quality study as early as 1991 but it was not performed until June 1996. Once completed, the report found "microbiological contamination is likely a primary factor causing the adverse health effects being experienced by employees." Findings confirmed NATCA's fear - the working environment is causing health problems. "Once again, instead of focusing efforts on the health of its employees, the agency spent its energies discrediting the report and minimizing associated health issues it raised," Blake said. After continued discussions with the FAA and congressional representatives, an acceptable project scope was agreed upon to address clean control room air in February. It included an independent air conditioning system at an estimated $500,000. When engineers determined the actual estimate, $1,321,000, the FAA's Airways Facilities Management denied categorically there is an air quality problem, and now questions whether the health risks justify the cost of the plan. NATCA, the Professional Airways Systems Specialists and FAA's Air Traffic Management support the initial plan. (Available upon request: Chronology of events, letters of support from U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, U.S. Rep. Charles Bass, the proposed remedy, and independent study).

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