Free A Critique Of A Journal Article Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Workplace, Atomic Bomb, Disaster, Human Resource Management, Study, Health, Education, Radiation

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2020/10/05

The cohort study of occupational safety among German workers exposed to nuclear radiation revealed a number of findings, and yielded a collection of employee data (8,972 employees) statistically analyzed from 17 nuclear power plants. The first medical examination check-up was conducted in 1991, and the second check-up was conducted in 2008. Results of the study revealed a healthy worker effect (HWE), when compared to the general population of West Germany (Merzenich et al., 2013, p. 405). Results were quantified according to a Standardized Mortality Ratio (SMR), and radiation exposure was measured in units of mSv.
While the study indicated a healthy worker effect (HWE) -- especially for German workers exposed to significant levels of occupational radiation -- data was far less than conclusive for a few reasons. One of the primary contributors to HWE -- which the researchers only briefly mentioned -- was the young age at which they were hired. Young "hires" were presumably healthy, and it takes much more time for radiation exposure to affect their health. Accordingly, it stands to reason that younger workers would take more time to absorb high-energy photon radiation (X-rays, γ-rays), showing a cumulative effect -- compounded by a latency effect -- only after several years.
Secondly, researchers did not, evidently, take into consideration improved safety practices over the years of the cohort study -- safety practices which could possibly have positive (or negative) effects on the nuclear power plant workers over the duration of the cohort study. These health effects could manifest themselves over time, and increase with age. The researchers stated that, "Workers who stay in employment longer, and accumulate higher doses, are those who are healthier and therefore have lower mortality rates" (Merzenich et al., 2013, p. 411). However, no explanation for this so-called survivor effect was offered.
Moreover, the nuclear plant with the most employees was used as a reference. The research begs the question as to whether safety procedures differed at this reference plant, thereby weighting the results -- either positively or negatively -- in terms of HWE.
Overall, the study indicated an HWE for workers chronically-exposed to a mean ionizing radiation of 29.5 mSv as positive, indicating a high level of safety among German nuclear power plants. Some other drawbacks to the study include its limited population size. While only the data of 8,972 workers was collected for this cohort study, other cohort studies in France and the United Kingdom used more workers. The authors of this study acknowledge this limitation (Merzenich et al, 2013, p. 414). Moreover, while the researchers made the counter-intuitive conclusion that longer-employed workers are healthier with respect to SMR, the researchers did not sample the population for positive measures of health, such as overall health, missed days of work due to minor illnesses, and other considerations such as birth deformities, and teratogenic effects caused by radiation (Wunsch, internet, 1997). Due to obvious constraints, researchers could not assess the health of subsequent generations (Vakil & Harvey, internet, 2009). Along with the line of reasoning that longer-employed workers are healthier, the researchers failed to follow up on the health of less-than-permanent (by their definition) workers -- who may or may not exhibit signs and symptoms of chronic illness after the duration of their employment.
Overall, this is a thorough study, but it attempts to analyze -- and account for -- too much confounding data with statistical means that are open to interpretation as to their reliability and accuracy. A larger study involving more subjects would be more convincing with regards to HWE, as well.
Lastly, it deserves mention that workers who use adequate safety measures are more likely to develop adverse health outcomes than the general population. This is due to the incorrect assumption on the part of workers that their safety equipment protects them in all scenarios -- even in places of excessive ionizing radiation.
Merzenich, H., Hammer, G.P., Troltzsch, K., Ruecker, K., Buncke, J., Fehringer, F., Blettner, M., (2013). Mortality risk in a historical cohort of nuclear power plant workers in Germany: results from a second follow-up. Radiation and Environmental Biophysics 53(2), 405-416.
Vakil, C. & Harvey, H., (2009). Human health implications of the nuclear energy industry. Retrieved on 21 Dec 2014 from energy-industry-2/
Wunsch, B., (1997). Radiation studies find new dangers of disease. Retrieved on 21 Dec 2014 from

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