As the U.S. House prepares to consider the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, current and former residents of Mohave County, Arizona are asking Congress to adopt a measure that would bring justice to victims of radiation exposure. Earlier this week, Reps. Greg Stanton and Paul Gosar introduced a bipartisan amendment to the NDAA to support Downwinders in Mohave County and Clark County, Nevada—a continuation of their work together on the issue.
These communities were exposed to the fallout of U.S. government nuclear tests from 1945 to 1962. For years, residents have been asking for a change to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which makes it possible for victims of illnesses resulting from atmospheric nuclear testing to file claims with the Department of Justice. Currently, residents of lower Mohave and Clark Counties are left out of this program—Stanton and Gosar hope to change that.
Several current and former residents have reached out to the congressmen to share their personal stories and support for the amendment.
“We have lost many, many friends and family members who called Mohave County home in those early days of testing. They suffered both medically and financially due to radiation exposure that, in some cases, caused cancer and other serious diseases leading to premature death.
I pray that H.R. 5992 [the standalone bill the amendment mirrors] will be enacted to make it possible for Mohave County citizens that were exposed to radiation from the atomic weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site be compensated for their illnesses.”
—Jean Bishop, Mohave County Supervisor, District 4
Jean believes she and her family were exposed while living in Las Vegas during the testing in the 1950s, as well as in Mohave County during the mid-1950s to 1960s.
“I hear the stories of our clients whose friends, neighbors and family members went outside to watch the huge, pinkish fallout cloud from the atomic tests. Some even claim that they had ‘Bomb Parties’ with their friends and family members to celebrate outside on testing days. Little did they know how later in life those friends and families would be labeled ‘Downwinders,’ and would battle the devastating effects of cancer and leukemia.
Each and every client has not only dealt with the grief of losing a family member or suffering through cancer or leukemia themselves, but also with the anger that their suffering was caused by their own government. I have also listened to countless individuals who are not eligible for compensation because even though they live closer to the test site than many of the other qualifying counties, they live in a county (Mohave and Clark) wherein only portions of the area is covered. It is time for Congress to fix this issue. While I understand it impacts a limited number of individuals from two states, those individuals in Mohave County and Clark County have suffered the same losses as those individuals who lived further away from the test site and deserve to be compensated for that loss.”
—Laura J. Taylor, Attorney, Law Offices of Laura J. Taylor, P.L.L.C.
Laura is an attorney in Prescott and has been processing claims through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program for the past 17 years for those individuals who are eligible for compensation.
“For generations now, the Hualapai people have suffered from a high cancer death rate that has been attributed to our Tribal lands’ proximity to the Nevada Nuclear Bomb Testing Site.
We were not apprised of the test or how airborne contamination could affect us and to say the least, it was a detriment to our people.
It is time to fix this horrible oversight and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, to cover the Hualapai Nation, Mohave County, Arizona and Clark County, Nevada.”
—Charlie Vaughn, Hualapai Tribe
Charlie was first elected to the Hualapai Tribe’s Council in the early 90s and served as Chairman of the Tribe and councilman for more than 10 years.
“North Country HealthCare’s Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program (RESEP) has been assisting eligible Downwinders in northern Arizona for the past eleven years. We have come across many families in Mohave county (below the Grand Canyon), who are not eligible for the Downwinder Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). They are also not eligible to participate in the RESEP program’s comprehensive medical screening exams.
Many families living in Mohave county are requesting for RECA and RESEP assistance and requesting for the medical screening exams. Unfortunately, our program is unable to assist many families in Mohave county due to RECA’s boundaries of splitting Mohave County.”
—Shannon Williams, Health Promotion Programs Manager, North Country HealthCare
“I am positive that radiation from the test site has caused the death of many residents of Mohave County, Arizona. I myself have been fighting cancer since approximately 1997. The cancer started with a tumor at the intersection of the urinary bladder and prostate. Approximately 20 years later, I had surgery for an intestinal cancer. A few years later I had five areas of cancer removed surgically from my liver and I have received many radiation procedures as the cancer spreads throughout the liver. The most recent treatment was approximately 30 days ago when they injected radioactive beads into the liver.
I am still alive thanks to the expertise of the Mayo Clinic, as I am now 81 years old. My sister Sharon was not as fortunate as I was. She contracted cancer in her fallopian tubes. The cancer continued to affect different parts of her body. She died in 2007 at age 64.
On closing, thanks to your efforts to right what I think has been a severe wrong by Congress not including all of Mohave County and parts of Nevada under RECA.”
—Edward D. Pattillo, Mohave County resident
“My Grandfather, Dr. Arthur Arnold, served as the County Doctor for Mohave County for 37 years, from 1939 to 1976. During his tenure in that position, he witnessed and treated an extraordinarily high number of inexplicable cancer cases, especially in the 1960’s.
An example of what he had to deal with was the extremely high number of childhood leukemia cases. He treated 14 cases (most were fatal) from 1966-72. The population of Mohave County at that time, was roughly 5,000 people. Conversely, on the average, childhood leukemia occurs in about 1 in every 86,000 children.
As for myself, I lost my father, just this last year to thyroid cancer. His Doctor attributed the cancer to possibly being caused by genetic damage due to exposure to high amounts of radiation that he received at some point in his lifetime.
I grew up in Kingman, thinking when adults reached their thirties and forties, that they usually would contract cancer. I thought that was normal. It was that prevalent. I watched not only my family members but an entire community of wonderful and convivial people, be decimated by so many premature deaths.
It’s time that the people that trusted and that still have faith in their government, receive the justice and recognition that they deserve.”
—Matt Capalby, third-generation Mohave County resident
“I went to grade school in Hackberry, Arizona, which is just east of Kingman in Mohave County from 1954 to 1959, and then went to Kingman for school from 1959 until spring 1965. In grade school in Hackberry, a man came to school several times and pinned an exposure meter to our clothing as we watched the nuclear blast in Nevada.
I have been diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer, basil cell skin cancers, prostate cancer, and leukemia.”
—Joe A. Warren, former Mohave County resident
“My life has been affected dramatically by what can only be described as the cruelty and callousness displayed by our government. Not only did they ‘experiment’ on the people of my hometown, but that cruelty and callousness continues to this day with the blatant exclusion of the Southern Portion of Mohave County under RECA, neglecting the fact that other counties in Arizona are covered and experienced with less exposure to radioactive fallout and radiation in general originating from the Above Ground Nuclear Testing of the 1950s and 60s.
My dear father has had not just one, but two cancers listed as compensable under the RECA Guidelines. Thanks to modern medical science, his life was saved in 1997. To this very day his quality of life is forever changed by side effects of his initial surgical procedures that allowed him to continue living free of the disease. Subsequent to that diagnosis, he was diagnosed with an additional compensable cancer that he continues to fight to this day.
By my estimation my father, alone, has had to endure far in excess of $1,000,000 in medical care related to his cancers, and I am certain if I added up all the bills over the last 23 years the actual amount would be much, much higher. I will close by saying that the southern part of Mohave County as a matter of fairness, not to mention liability, must be included for all forms of compensation under RECA.”
—Cullin D. Pattilo, Mohave County resident
“My dad has been fighting cancer for the last 24 years. He’s fought three kinds of cancer and continues to battle liver cancer today. My mom had a benign thyroid tumor and lost half of her thyroid. My brother had a nodule on his thyroid in his early 20s and lost half of his thyroid. My thyroid also stopped working in my late 20s. My aunt had multiple kinds of cancer (breast, Fallopian tube, and colon) which killed her five years after her initial diagnosis.
I firmly believe that both of my parents’ exposure led to their issues and also caused mutations that they passed to my brother and I. Beyond that, both my brother and myself, as well as every student in Kingman Schools received milk from a dairy in Mesquite, Nevada during our early school years, from 1970 to 1980. The radiation that didn’t directly affect our parents ended up in the milk supply heading into our schools through the grass fed to cattle at the Mesquite Nevada Dairy.
Our government is responsible. They need to step up and do what they can to repair the damage. Hiding behind government red tape for over 50 years waiting for affected victims and families to die off is not the American way and quite cowardly.”
—Kim Pattillo, fourth-generation Mohave County resident
“My identical twin brother David and I grew up in Kingman, Arizona. We were very active and always outdoors. At the age of 11, my brother started experiencing shoulder pain. After several months of exams and physician visits exploratory surgery revealed advanced liver cancer, an extremely rare diagnosis for a young child.
My brother passed away a few months later in April 1980. I underwent ultrasound to determine, as an identical twin, if this was a genetic condition. This test was negative.”
—Douglas Loveday, former Mohave County resident
“Before my breast cancer was first detected in 2014, my neighbors and friends were already perishing. Of the dozen homes on Arlington Street in Kingman, Arizona, where I spent the late 1960s, cancer plagued the lives of residents in five of those homes who were also present in Kingman during the established radiation fallout period of the 1950s and early 1960s.
My type of cancer is hard to eradicate; my goal is to stay alive long enough for newer therapies to extend a life cut short by government and military indifference. The costs for the 2014-2015 round of treatment was at least $100,000. This year’s 2020 treatments are somewhere north of that.”
—Cheryll Rutter McKinnon, former Mohave County resident