Health Impact Assessment Grant Will Explore Potential Health Impacts of those Exposed to 1945 Trinity Atomic Bomb Test

On July 16, 1945, the U.S. government tested the first nuclear device, called “Gadget,” in what was designated the “Trinity Site” in south central New Mexico. The government described the area as “remote and uninhabited.” In reality there were more than 40,000 people living in the four counties surrounding the Trinity Site; which are Lincoln, Otero, Sierra and Socorro counties.   Some of the highest cancer rates in the U.S. are found in these counties. The people of New Mexico were the first victims of an atomic bomb and were unknowing, unwilling, uncompensated, innocent participants in the world’s largest science experiment.

The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, founded in 2005 by Tina Cordova and the late Fred Tyler, have been working to bring attention to the negative health effects from radioactive fallout resultant of the Trinity test. For many years the Consortium has partnered with Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety,, Holly Beaumont of Interfaith Worker Justice-New Mexico,, and Dr. Maureen Merritt of Physicians for Social Responsibility,, in this endeavor.

No epidemiological study of the resultant illnesses has ever been done. The Consortium’s volunteers have developed and collected health surveys from people living in the communities closest to the Trinity Site.

In support of this effort, the Santa Fe Community Foundation recently provided a $35,000 grant to the Consortium to conduct a formal health impact assessment. The grant will provide the much-needed resources to expand and fully formalize the collection and interpretation of the health surveys.

In 1990, the U.S. set up a fund called the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to compensate people who were made sick living downwind of the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. The fund has been available for people in parts of Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Colorado, and uranium miners in some parts of New Mexico, who have been affected by the radiation exposure. New Mexico downwinders have never been included in the RECA fund, even though the people of New Mexico were the very first downwinders. The fund has paid out over $2 billion in claims and provided invaluable health care coverage to the downwinders of the Nevada test site.

For five years, Senator Tom Udall and others have introduced amendments to RECA to include New Mexico downwinders and continues to gain co-sponsors. Even so, key congressional committees have not yet scheduled a hearing.

Tina Cordova, of the Consortium, said, “It is our goal to utilize the data collected through the health impact assessment process to build our case for why New Mexicans should be included in the RECA ‘downwinders’ program.”



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