The Health Data Archive "Wismut" (GDAW)
Tasks and research activities of the BAuA in the context of the GDAW
The BAuA administers the health data archive "Wismut", which comprises the medical files of the miners of the uranium mining industry in the GDR. In addition to research activities, we are also dealing with inquiries concerning sick miners in the context of compensation questions.
Until the German reunification in 1990, more than 500,000 workers worked belowground and above ground in the GDR uranium mining industry of Wismut AG. In the course of the so-called "wild years" up to approx. 1955, the miners were exposed to ionizing radiation and silicogenic dusts to a degree that exceeded several times the limiting values currently in force. In addition, factors such as
- physical work under constraint,
- partial and whole body vibration,
- arsenic and various heavy metals,
- noise and climatic stress
played a role not to be underestimated in terms of health risks to workers.
Medical care at Wismut AG
The medical care of the Wismut workers, including the co-insured relatives, was organised in a separate health service, the so-called Wismut health care system. It covered the entire spectrum, from occupational medicine to medical diagnostics and treatment, to rehabilitation and aftercare. For this purpose, numerous outpatient clinics were on hand, eight corporate polyclinics and seven miners' hospitals and sanatoria were available. In addition, there was a physician-guided work hygiene inspection, whose tasks were comparable with those of the West German commercial inspectorates. A further establishment of the Wismut health care system was the workplace centre in Niederdorf, which was active in the field of expert opinions and served as a scientific occupational medicine centre. The Wismut health care system was active in the areas of today's federal states of Saxony and Thuringia.
BAuA is the manager of the GDAW
In 1997, the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) took over the records, files and archives of the former Wismut health care system on a legal basis. It may use these for research in its field of activity. The archive is located at the BAuA's office in Chemnitz, which currently comprises approximately 9,000 running meters of paper files and x-rays.
The tasks of the GDAW
The tasks of the GDAW are regulated by legislation. They include, on the one hand, services resulting from the support of the relevant research area, such as the provision of data for epidemiological testing. On the other hand, it is one of the tasks of the GDAW to answer questions about the incapacity for work of the workers of the former Wismut AG.
Special arrangement in the interests of the former workers
Legislation has granted the BAuA a special statutory provision for the protection of personal data in the interest of the assertion of the social insurance claims of former workers of the uranium mining industry in the GDR. While otherwise the data protection law requirement of data parsimony applies, which includes as short as possible retention periods of personal data, the GDAW archives the health data for the duration of 40 years. In this way, disease progression of affected persons can also be tracked in the future and possible compensation can be justified.
GDAW as an important source of information
GDAW is now regarded as a unique and at the same time the largest epidemiological source of information on the long-term exposure and health situation of workers in an industrial enterprise. Data for epidemiological research projects are therefore collected from the archive stock.