Former Dow workers here keep up compensation fight
By Adam Jadhav
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Don Thompson (right) and another worker man machining station at a metal working plant in Madison, Ill. The workers processed radioactive materials and say they later developed cancer because of their exposure to the metal.
MADISON â€” From the outside, the hulking former Dow Chemical metalworks is a stark reminder of the nation’s once-booming industrial sector, of a time when a factory job was a ticket to the good life.
Yet the men and women who worked there have a far darker tale. Radioactive materials once processed at the factory helped build the nation’s nuclear arsenal. But the workers say the operation was so secret that even they were unaware of what materials they were working on and what basic safeguards from exposure they should have gotten. Now, they say, that past has come back to haunt many of them in the form of cancer.
“My dad died because of the work he did on behalf of this country,” said Kay Bopp, whose father, Omer Bridges, succumbed to breast cancer that spread through his body after working for years at the plant. “He had no clue what he was dealing with, what he was working with, knowing that it could and would kill him.”
A few years ago, Congress mandated compensation â€” reparations, really â€” to
men and women exposed to radiation while working in factories like the one in Madison. Just last month, a number of workers at the plant found out they, too, will likely get paid. But activists and some members of Congress say that the pool is too small and that more of the former employees should get aid.