Close to 70 years after the world’s first atomic bomb test was done in the New Mexico desert, United States federal researchers are scheduled to visit the state during the month of September and begin studying whether residents developed cancer due to the blast. The study is scheduled to start September 25th.
Investigators with the National Cancer Institute will begin by interviewing people who lived in the state around the time of the 1945 Trinity test and assess the effects of consuming food, milk and water that may have been contaminated by the explosion.
For numerous years, heavily Hispanic villages near the test site have claimed that a wave of cancer has swept through a stretch of south-central New Mexico. A number of families were prompted to call the government in order to determine whether radiation exposure played a role.
According to the mayor of Tularosa, an old Spanish settlement of 3,000 people about 35 miles from the Trinity site, there isn’t one family in the community that hasn’t had a loved one die of cancer. He has a brother die of several types of cancer and he has a son with a brain tumor.
This study is anticipated to be the most detailed examination, it will explore the darker side of the Manhattan Project, it could potentially lead to residents’ receiving compensation under a federal program for people who became ill after being exposed to radiation from nuclear testing.
In 1990, Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which provides $50,000 payments to individuals who lived downwind of the Nevada test site and contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases after radiation exposure. Senator Tom Udall has sponsored a bill to make Trinity “downwinders” eligible for compensation as well, unfortunately, the measure failed to advance in Congress.
According to a government physicist who is leading the study, it is clear that anyone downwind of a release of radioactive material, there is a potential to be exposed. He also states that it is pretty clear that if someone is exposed, that person is at some increased risk, however scientist are unable to quantify it.
To date it is still unclear how much radiation was absorbed by New Mexicans due to fallout from the explosion. The fallout coated backyards with ash and singed cattle. Earlier studies didn’t fully encompass the entire spectrum of exposure from the trinity test. An unreleased draft report from the National Cancer Institute viewed by The Wall Street Journal estimated that some year old children exposed to the blast likely received large internal radiation dosages in their thyroid glands.
The 2008 report asserts that the thyroid doses for a one-year-old child affected by the explosion were estimated to e about 30 times as high as what adults received. The report also contained other preliminary estimates based on the limited data available.