National Day of Remembrance for Downwinders
This year commemorates the first National Downwinders Day since the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to institute this day of recognition. National Downwinders Day acknowledges and calls attention to the harm the U.S. government inflicted on its own citizens when it conducted nuclear tests during the era of the Cold War.
Until 1963, the United States conducted atmospheric nuclear tests. In the process, they blanketed a wide radius with hazardous levels of nuclear fallout, especially affecting parts of Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, where most of the tests took place. Decades later, it became clear that people who were living in those areas had drastically increased rates of cancer. Most severely affected were people who were children at the time and frequently drank milk containing large amounts of radiation. When consumed, the fallout gathers in the thyroid gland and may cause thyroid cancer later in life.
In 1990, Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act and in the time since, the US government has granted compensation to 16,000 people, amounting to nearly $800 million. However, about 4,000 people have still been denied compensation, and money does not necessarily make up for the terrible consequences of cancer.
This experience is one of many examples of why nuclear testing must be permanently banned and makes clear that the United States Senate should ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). In fact, one of our Women Legislators’ Lobby Pacesetter awardees, Representative Jennifer Seelig (D-UT), has worked hard on this issue, having led the successful 2010 effort in Utah’s House of Representatives to unanimously pass a resolution in support of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
For More information about National Downwinders Day and the effects of nuclear testing, go here: http://www.ctbto.org/specials/infamous-anniversaries/27-january-1951-the-first-nuclear-test-at-the-nevada-test-site/
This post was written by WAND DC intern Hayley Anderson.