Rep. Greg Stanton introduced an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to include justice for victims of radiation exposure in Mohave County, Arizona and Clark County Nevada—a continuation of his work on this issue.
The area is home to many “Downwinders,” people who lived downwind of nuclear test sites or reactors and were exposed to the fallout of U.S. government nuclear tests from 1945 to 1962.
“Downwinders and advocates in Arizona have been fighting for justice and recognition for many years, and their stories are a painful reminder of the long-term medical and financial impacts of radiation exposure. It’s past time we fix this oversight,” Stanton said.
Stanton introduced the Downwinders Parity Act of 2021, which would update RECA to include all of Mohave and Clark counties 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.
In March, 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.
The House will vote on full passage of the NDAA this week.
This National Day of Remembrance for Downwinders, January 27, 2021, marks the 70th Anniversary of the first atmospheric nuclear test at the Nevada Proving Ground test site, approximately 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada.
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.
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. RECA covers 19 compensable diseases.