We requested cause-of-death information directly from state (and some municipal) vital statistics offices.10
Differences in record ownership affect the rules that apply to the use of data. Ease or difficulty with access, privacy, fees, time frames, and definitions (conceptual and operational) were all factors in determining collection of the data upon which this report is based. Furthermore, among the federal agencies and private sources pursued, there are different interests (some overlapping, some in seeming conflict) behind the collection of data. These purposes might include understanding science, assuring that the government honors reasonable claims for compensation, learning lessons for application to future public policy decisions, cost accounting, advocacy support (legislative, regulatory, and emotional), and assigning responsibility for past decisions and their consequences.
The completeness and accuracy of the various data collections vary widely, as does the quality of the data themselves. Certain data may be perfect for their intended purpose but not otherwise useful. Other data—such as those which we worked to retrieve for this study—may have fortuitous uses other than those for which they were collected. Trade-offs exist in data sources: accurate but limited in time frame or population considered; broadly relevant but of variable and difficult-to-judge accuracy; and relevant but lacking linked information to other lifetime experiences that might affect health status. Some sources are based on information about individuals (e.g., military personnel records), some on direct measurement (e.g., radiation dose measurements), and others on expert-derived best estimates (dose reconstructions).
Among those sources viewed were handwritten paper logs, microfilm/fiche, computer files, medical records, work orders, transport orders, memoirs,
For sending us death certificate information, we thank government personnel in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. In the conduct of this study, individually identified data have been safeguarded in accordance with the Privacy Act; death certificates will be destroyed one year from publication the of CROSSROADS study manuscripts.