Inside the Capitol

Thursday, August 16, 2007

8-20 We Should Know More About the Effects of Trinity


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- Were you a "downwinder" from the Trinity nuclear test? Where were you or your loved ones on July 16, 1945 and during the weeks that followed?

      Generally, if you lived northeast of Trinity Site, which is 40 miles west of Carrizozo, you were a downwinder and may have received a big dose of nuclear fallout that extended into Colorado.

      A recent Inside the Capitol column told of newly released studies indicating that many New Mexicans may have received larger doses of radiation from the world's first atomic blast than previously thought -- or admitted.

      Although Enrico Fermi and others had predicted before the test that radiation would be a problem, the concern at the time was about immediate effects and not long term harm. Thus measurements were incomplete -- as far as we know.

      But to take a peek at what information might never have reached the light of day, the Centers for Disease Control authorized a several-million dollar search of millions of records at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

      New information is being uncovered concerning Trinity Site exposure as well as other exposure of radiation releases at the laboratory. An interim report, released last month, reveals some of those findings. The search has another two years until completion.

      So what does a New Mexican do to learn the amount of radiation likely received as a result of the Trinity test? The information is available online in Appendix N of the "Interim Report of the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment (LAHDRA) Project" at

   The 47-page appendix contains very interesting background information on the 1945 Trinity test, including maps of fallout patterns and a discussion of gaps of knowledge remaining to this day.

   For those of you without computer knowledge or access, it might be worth contacting a friend, relative or library to secure this information if you feel you might have suffered adverse effects from the Trinity radiation.

   And what if you learn that it is likely you or your loved ones have been adversely affected by the test? I've heard many stories over the past few weeks. The strongest evidence came from a woman whose father and two brothers have cancer or have died of cancer. The third brother, who moved to California, does not have cancer.

   She reports the skin of their cattle turned white and the hair fell off their horses within days of the blast.

   Unfortunately, all most people can expect from reading the Trinity findings is to gain some knowledge about causes of health problems in their family. The woman spoken of earlier reports her family was visited by government agents but were told the cancer in the family is genetic because they are Hispanic.

   Anti-nuclear and environment groups are now asking for a full assessment of the amounts of radiation to which people living near Trinity Site were exposed. The process is called dose reconstruction.

   Numerous detailed dose reconstructions were made for people who lived downwind from the Nevada Test Site, but none, as far as we know, have been released for people exposed to Trinity..

   Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch secured legislation in 1990 creating the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act. It applied only to victims in parts of Utah, Arizona and Nevada. Senators from Idaho and Montana now are trying to expand the act to cover their constituents.

   My contacts reveal that there is sufficient evidence to consider adding downwinders of the Trinity test to this act. It should have been done in 1990, but now would be a good time to add them into the current U.S. Senate bill to expand RECA coverage to other states.

   So, if you feel you or loved ones may have been harmed by the Trinity test, an option is to support the groups now seeking a full assessment of the radiation doses received by Trinity downwinders.

   Contacting New Mexico's U.S. Sens. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman about supporting the assessment and seeking victim compensation would also be appropriate.

MON, 8-20-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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