State Environment Department Recommends a Complete Cleanup of the South Fork of Acid Canyon

Seven-fold Increase in Genetic Mutations Found in Children Born to Chernobyl Clean-Up Crews

Radioactive Roads and Rails Campaign activities

* State Environment Department officials stated that a complete cleanup of the South Fork of Acid Canyon probably should be done. Contamination, such as americium, cesium-137, strontium-90, lead and mercury, has been found in the canyon. In 1997, Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL) found weapons-grade plutonium at levels upwards of 10,000 times higher in the canyon than found in the backyards of Los Alamos. Greg Lewis, director of water and waste management at the Environment Department said, "These numbers are the highest that have been identified on lab property and we want to see it appropriately dealt with."

From the 1940s through the mid-1960s, LANL dumped untreated and treated liquid radioactive waste into the canyon. Located between the skateboard park and the municipal swimming pool, the area is now a Los Alamos County park. Hikers, joggers, and families use the canyon recreationally. The Department of Energy (or DOE) and the County have agreed to post signs indicating there is no unacceptable risk to recreational users.

Proposed budget cuts by the Bush Administration may delay the cleanup for several years. Lewis is concerned because the Acid Canyon cleanup "is one of the first things that will come off the lab's 'to do' list if the budget cuts go through." Although the state Environment Department does not have jurisdiction over radioactive materials, DOE has not ruled out a complete cleanup, providing Congress provides the funds.

DOE and LANL will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, May 23rd from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos.

* A study published by the Royal Society this week claims that children born after the 1986 Chernobyl accident to men commissioned to clean up the damaged reactor are seven times more likely to exhibit genetic mutations than children born to parents who were not exposed to radiation.

The mutations were identified using DNA fingerprinting techniques. These results mean that a high proportion of the world's radiation workers exposed to even low levels of radiation may be risking the health, or even lives, of their unborn children. The nuclear industry has claimed for years that exposure to nuclear materials cannot effect the unborn children of those exposed. The study, however, has shown that the radiation from the stricken reactor negatively affected the sperm of the fathers, which can cause a mutation of the DNA of their children.

Scientists working on the project studied the families of the men who worked on the reactor cleanup that included one child born before the Chernobyl accident and one born after. Although the children born after the accident showed no physical deformities, the long-term effects of the DNA changes are unknown. The changes may cause increased risk of cancer or genetic instability in future generations.

The researchers found that even low-level exposure can cause genetic mutations, meaning that radiation exposure from occupational or medical procedures can adversely affect the mutation rate in offspring. However, the study also found that the risk for genetic mutation in children decreased as the fathers worked in environments free of radiation.

* Please join us for the following Radioactive Roads and Rails Campaign activities. First, on Saturday, May 19th, please join us at CommUNITY days on the Santa Fe Plaza, in front of the old Woolworth's store. The Campaign is a national project of Public Citizen and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service to inform and educate the public about transportation of nuclear fuel to the Yucca Mountain site. CCNS is working with Public Citizen and Peace Action New Mexico to bring the campaign to New Mexico. We will have a 20' inflatable mock nuclear waste transport cask for presentation and an information table. More than 100 non-profit organizations also will be present offering information. We hope to see you there!

Next, on Monday, May 21st, the Radioactive Roads and Rails Campaign will be on the steps of the State Capitol Building, East Concourse, for a press conference discussing Yucca Mountain and releasing the results of the surveys of New Mexico emergency responder along the north-south WIPP route conducted by CCNS and the State Department of Health.

Also on Monday, May 21st, CCNS, Peace Action New Mexico and Public Citizen will be offering presentations about the transportation of nuclear fuel through New Mexico to Yucca Mountain. The presentations will be in the Community Room of the LeFarge Branch of the Public Library, 1730 Llano Street, in Santa Fe. Please call CCNS at 986-1973 for more information.

The LANL and DOE open house to discuss cleanup of the South Fork of Acid Canyon will be on Wednesday, May 23 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm at the Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos. For more information, please call CCNS at 986-1973.

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