Bill would extend timeline for Downwinders’ claims

March 5, 2020
In The News

WASHINGTON — Rep. Paul Gosar and Rep. Greg Stanton have introduced the Downwinders Parity Act to bring justice to victims of radiation exposure in Mohave County, Arizona, and Clark County, Nevada.

Specifically, Gosar and Stanton, both of Arizona, are pushing for a change to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which makes it possible for victims of illnesses resulting from atmospheric nuclear testing and uranium industry employment to file claims with the Department of Justice. Their bill would expand the borders of the “affected area” to include all of Mohave and Clark counties, which are currently excluded, as well as extend the timeline for filing claims for an additional five years to 2027. Currently, if Congress does not act, the trust fund will expire in 2022.

“Military testing is vital to ensuring our nation is prepared to protect against hostile threats. Unfortunately, this military readiness exposed many Arizonans to cancer-causing carcinogens from atmospheric nuclear tests,” said Gosar, a Republican from Prescott. “I remain committed to correcting this injustice committed by the federal government which has adversely impacted the residents of Mohave County.”

“For too long, residents in lower Mohave County have been left behind in our country’s efforts to bring justice to Downwinders,” said Stanton, a Democrat from Phoenix. “This bill will ensure that innocent Arizonans affected by our country’s national security decisions will have access to the health care treatments and resources they deserve.”

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Stanton is pushing the committee to take up the bill for consideration.

The United States government conducted nearly 200 atmospheric weapons development tests as part of Cold War security from 1945 to 1962—an era when other nations also engaged in nuclear weapons testing and proliferation. These tests exposed thousands of Americans to cancer-causing ionized radiation from nuclear fallout.

Those individuals living downwind of a nuclear test site or reactor — exposed to the fallout of nuclear tests — are commonly referred to as “Downwinders.”

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 others..

Gosar introduced a similar bill to address the boundary oversight last year, but the Downwinders Parity Act builds on that legislation by extending the timeframe for claim eligibility.