WASHINGTON, D.C.—As thousands of Americans flock to theaters this weekend to see Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Oppenheimer, Rep. Greg Stanton renewed his effort to bring justice to Downwinders—victims of cancer-causing radiation from nuclear fallout during the development and testing of the atomic bomb.

“The premiere of this movie brings up painful memories for hundreds of Arizona families who lost loved ones to radiation illnesses,” Stanton said. “Time is running out for these Americans. It’s long past time for the federal government to take responsibility for its actions.”

H.R. 4754, the Downwinders Parity Act of 2023, would update the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include all of Mohave County, Arizona and Clark County, Nevada as affected areas, and instruct the Attorney General to submit a report to Congress outlining what efforts will be undertaken to educate and conduct outreach to those made newly eligible.

Nolan’s film tells the story of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the work of Manhattan Project scientists to build the first atomic bomb. According to box office estimates, Oppenheimer will bring in $50 million through Sunday—the exact amount the Congressional Budget Office estimates expanding eligibility would cost.

In March 2021, at Stanton’s urging, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the impacts of radiation exposure for Downwinders, the first time in two decades that victims in the Southwest were given an opportunity to speak before a House committee on the urgent need for justice to their communities. 

Stanton invited Mohave County Supervisor Jean Bishop to testify. She told the Committee, “While, at the time, we were encouraged to celebrate the advances of our government finding methods to protect U.S. citizens; unfortunately, we were blind to the fact that radioactive fallout would kill and sicken numerous members of our family.”

Congress voted to extend the RECA program for two years in May 2022 but did not expand eligibility to downwinders in Mohave and Clark Counties.


The United States government conducted nearly 200 atmospheric weapons development tests as part of Cold War security from 1945 to 1962. These tests exposed thousands of Americans to cancer-causing ionized radiation from nuclear fallout. When the injuries were discovered, Congress attempted to make amends on behalf of the nation by passing the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to establish a trust fund for partial restitution to individuals who have contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases that can be directly attributed to the radiation exposure from the nuclear weapons testing.

Unfortunately, that bill included serious boundary flaws that have prevented otherwise eligible Arizonans from receiving justice and the compensation to which they are entitled. Americans that reside in counties in close proximity to where the testing occurred are excluded from this program for no logical scientific reason, specifically residents in Mohave County, Arizona and Clark County, Nevada. 

The serious effects of exposure to low doses of radiation can be unpredictable, but incredibly harmful. There’s a higher tendency among Downwinders to develop certain cancers including Leukemia, Multiple Myeloma, Lymphomas and many more. As a result, thousands have suffered from cancer, and far too many have died. Research from the National Cancer Institute shows that lower Mohave County and lower Clark County have higher rates of radiation exposure than other areas covered under RECA.