2005 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 29 Apr 2005 00:12:42 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Compensation for nuclear test victims
Institute for Energy and Environmental Research * Snake River Alliance *
Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah *  Physicians for Social
Responsibility * Alliance for Nuclear Accountability

for immediate release, Thursday, April 28, 2005


Groups concerned about the health effects of radioactive fallout
welcomed today's release of a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report
recommending that eligibility for the federal compensation program for
people suffering from cancer connected to U.S. nuclear weapons tests not
be limited to its current geographic boundaries and urged Congress to
move quickly to assist sick downwinders. The NAS study said that
Congress should implement science-based changes that, in effect, would
extend coverage of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which
is now limited to residents of parts of Nevada, southern Utah and
Arizona as well as workers who handled uranium.

"The National Cancer Institute has shown that there were hot spot areas
all over the country where milk was contaminated. People with a high
risk of thyroid cancer should be compensated without delay wherever they
lived without having to jump through hoops," said Arjun Makhijani,
Ph.D., president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research
(IEER), referring to a 1997 National Cancer Institute (NCI) report on
radioactive iodine doses from fallout. "The cancer risks from fallout
other than thyroid cancer still need to be determined by careful study.
The available science on other cancer risks from testing is inadequate
because scientists have not talked to the downwinders carefully enough
to determine all the pathways by which they were exposed. For example,
radioactive ash deposited after test blasts on laundry as it dried
outside could have led to higher exposures than what has been accounted for."

"The NAS report is a mixed bag," said Mary Dickson, lifetime resident of
Salt Lake City and survivor of thyroid cancer. "It admits that fallout
affected the entire country. But it is not possible for many victims to
produce hard scientific evidence of their exposure because studies were
not done at that time. At this point, all the government has to do is
wait for the victims to die."

Susan Gordon of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability welcomed NAS's
recognition of the need to include additional geographic areas under
RECA. "However," Ms. Gordon qualified, "under no circumstances should
benefits be taken away from the 22 currently eligible RECA counties.
Current RECA benefits should not be changed."

Kimberly Roberts of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) welcomed
the NAS recommendation for a broad federal education and communication
program about fallout risks. "Patients must have access to information
to make informed decisions about their exposures. Congress should
include physician education and outreach as part of any new RECA
legislation," Ms. Roberts added.

"RECA funding should not subject to the whims of annual appropriators so
that those who are sick and dying receive a check to pay for their
chemotherapy rather than a government IOU," said Vanessa Pierce of the
Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah. "Also, those who were harmed by
fallout should receive awards for health damages comparable to the
$150,000 payments received by nuclear weapons workers who contracted
similar diseases. The public was deliberately misinformed by the
government about the health risks of nuclear testing and deserve as much."

"It's time for the federal government to make good on its obligation to
help all people sickened by U.S. nuclear weapons testing," Jeremy
Maxand, Executive Director of Idaho's Snake River Alliance, concluded.
"The Bush Administration and Congress should focus on making the RECA
program work effectively rather than pursuing the dangerous resumption
of nuclear weapons tests."

RECA was originally passed by Congress in 1990 and amended in 2000. The
legislation was historic because it was the first time the government
publicly acknowledged that downwinders and uranium workers had been hurt
and deserved compensation. In the 1950s and early-1960s, the U.S.
conducted nearly 100 aboveground nuclear weapons tests. A National
Cancer Institute (NCI) study on the health impacts of fallout released
in 1997 found that millions of people in the U.S. received significant
doses of radioactive iodine and that hot spots occurred thousands of
miles from the test sites.

The NAS investigation began in 2002 to assess recent scientific
evidence, including the NCI data, to determine whether other groups of
people should be covered under the RECA program. 

- - 3 0 - -

For an NCI map showing areas with radioactive iodine fallout from U.S.
nuclear weapons tests, go to 
(Source: NCI 1997)
Historical Nuclear Weapons Test Films, DOE: http://www.osti.gov/historicalfilms/

Lisa Ledwidge
Outreach Director, United States, and Editor of Science for Democratic Action
Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER)
PO Box 6674,  Minneapolis, MN 55406
tel. 1-612-722-9700 <ieer@ieer.org>  http://www.ieer.org


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918
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