Monday, January 30, 2017

Disposable Veterans and Radioactive Legacies

The New York Times has a poignant article about the plight of US service men who were required to clean up Enewetak atoll, part of the Marshall Islands, site of extensive radioactive contamination from nuclear testing:
Dave Phillips. January 28, 2017. Troops Who Cleaned Up Radioactive Islands Can’t Get Medical Care. The New York Times,

…Roughly 4,000 troops helped clean up the [Enewetak] atoll between 1977 and 1980. Like Mr. Snider, most did not even wear shirts, let alone respirators. Hundreds say they are now plagued by health problems, including brittle bones, cancer and birth defects in their children. Many are already dead. Others are too sick to work.

The military says there is no connection between these illnesses and the cleanup. Radiation exposure during the work fell well below recommended thresholds, it says, and safety precautions were top notch. So the government refuses to pay for the veterans’ medical care.

Congress long ago recognized that troops were harmed by radiation on Enewetak during the original atomic tests, which occurred in the 1950s, and should be cared for and compensated. Still, it has failed to do the same for the men who cleaned up the toxic debris 20 years later. The disconnect continues a longstanding pattern in which the government has shrugged off responsibility for its nuclear mistakes….

…The island was littered with a fine dust of pulverized plutonium, which if inhaled or otherwise absorbed can cause cancer years or even decades later. A millionth of a gram is potentially harmful, and because the isotopes have a half-life of 24,000 years, the danger effectively never goes away.
Denying harm to victims of radioactive contamination is a COWARDLY and MORALLY BANKRUPT policy that has been actively pursued by the most powerful governments, including and especially the US Government.

Those decision makers who choose to lie do so to stop the endless tide of claims to justice and demands for clean-up from those impacted by the unprecedented radioactive contamination unleashed and dispersed across the 20th century. For example,
Coleen Jose, Kim Wall and Jan Hendrik Hinzel. July 13, 2015, This dome in the Pacific houses tons of radioactive waste – and it's leaking. The Guardian,

The Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands is a hulking legacy of years of US nuclear testing. Now locals and scientists are warning that rising sea levels caused by climate change could cause 111,000 cubic yards of debris to spill into the ocean....

Endless contamination.... Endless externalities.... Endless denial....


  1. So many downwinders..My dad was exposed in the military. I think that everyone in the united states has a relaative, or knows someone whose family has been damaged by radiation and radionuclide exposure.




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