Blue Grass workers are having their blood tested by staff medical experts in order to establish baseline data before chemical-agent destruction operations begin.
The normal range of red blood cell acetylcholinesterase, or ChE, activity is important when monitoring people who process chemical agents.
“One method our medical department will use to verify if a worker has been exposed to nerve agent is to measure the ChE value of their blood and compare it to their baseline,” said Ray Hagen, paramedic, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass. “Every worker at the site who will be issued a respirator is having blood drawn to record their ChE baselines before chemical operations begin.”
Nerve agents are organophosphates, which are toxic to the human nervous system. While unlikely, a low-level exposure to nerve agent may not show symptoms, but the baseline blood test results would, Hagen said. A drop in ChE levels when compared to a person’s baseline would indicate exposure. To establish baseline levels, at least two blood tests, greater than 24 hours and no more than 14 days apart, are required.
“Although exposure to nerve agent is very unlikely for plant workers, safety is always foremost,” Hagen said. “Each worker is issued an escape respirator, which will protect them from inhalation hazards or exposure to the eyes and facial mucous membranes. The worker’s blood work must be on file to issue the mask.”
“I’m glad our safety is so important to this project,” said one worker having his blood drawn. “And I didn’t even really feel the needle. Ray did a nice job.”