National Cancer Institute in New Mexico to Interview People Living at the Time of the 1945 Trinity Test


Runs 9/26/14 through 10/3/14


(THEME UP AND UNDER) This is the CCNS News Update, an overview of the latest nuclear safety issues, brought to you every week by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. Here is this week’s top headline:

  • National Cancer Institute in New Mexico to Interview People Living at the Time of the 1945 Trinity Test

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) scientists are in New Mexico this week to interview a small group of Elders who were living at the time of the July 16th, 1945 Trinity atomic bomb test. These interviews are part of the Pilot Study, Phase One, of the NCI Trinity Study. The investigators will ask the Elders about the diet and life ways of the time, which could reveal ways that people were exposed to the fallout plume. The second phase will include the NCI scientists talking with focus groups, composed of those living under the fallout plume. A map of the plume is available at

NCI is a division within the federal Health and Human Services Department. It is conducting the study to determine the cancer risks to the entire population living in New Mexico at the time. Because there is a lack of documentation about diets and ways of life of land-based Peoples in the 1940s, estimates of the radiation exposure cannot yet be made.

In 2007, then-Senator Jeff Bingaman wrote the Health and Human Services Department asking it for a range of the number of cancers that would be expected as a result of exposure to the radioactive fallout. He also asked for an estimate of the cancers that would occur naturally in the local New Mexico communities. Bingaman DHHS 10-30-07 HHS response Feb 21 2008 The interviews and focus group responses will assist in answering those questions.

Over the past year, Las Mujeres Hablan, a network of women led community organizations in New Mexico, has provided their time and expertise on a pro bono basis to inform and educate the NCI Trinity Study Team about community history, culture and experience in relationship to the Trinity test.

Las Mujeres Hablan members actively participated in the work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the ten-year Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment Project (LAHDRA).  Because the Trinity atomic weapon was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the final LAHDRA report included an entire chapter about it. The report emphasized that approximately 4.8 kilograms, or over 10.5 pounds, of plutonium-239 did not fission. Because the detonation took place on a 50-foot tower, and not in the atmosphere, the plutonium more directly contacted the environment.  Las Mujeres Hablan has a special interest to make sure the unfissioned plutonium is addressed because the internal exposure to plutonium may be significant, especially for individuals exposed to heavy fallout and re-suspended dust particles.

To learn more about the study, please contact Silvia Salazar, the NCI Audience Research and Informatics Laboratory Manager at the Analytics and Audience Research Branch, at (240) 276-6631.


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