New Report Documents Historic LANL Contaminant Releases - Public Meeting Scheduled for June 25

June 12, 2009

A new draft report released this week documents how accidents, radioactive and chemical releases, and routine operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) could have posed a public health risk. The Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment Project, commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the culmination of ten years of work by a team of researchers.

The purpose of this important report is to identify the past chemical and radioactive releases from LANL and to provide a summary of the historical operations, describe the materials used and released, explain how the residential areas in Los Alamos developed around the nuclear weapons facilities, and document the importance of the identified releases in terms of potential public health risks.

The report also documents potential doses to the public from the July 16, 1945 test at the Trinity Site in central New Mexico. Because LANL developed the device that was tested, the CDC included it in their historic review. Doses to individuals living around the Trinity Site have not been completely evaluated. Breathing airborne radioactivity and consuming contaminated food and water resulted in internal exposures. The report states, "Too much remains undetermined about exposures from the Trinity test to put the event in perspective as a source of public radiation exposure or to defensibly address the extent to which people were harmed."

The CDC reports that past LANL operations have released more radioactivity than has been officially reported or published. The federal agency states that if the airborne plutonium releases from early operations at Technical Area 1 are as high as documented in a 1956 report, then the plutonium releases from LANL could easily exceed the combined plutonium release totals from the other Department of Energy sites located at Hanford, Rocky Flats and Savannah River Site.

In addition to the high plutonium levels, the report also explores the residential housing that was built as close as 200 meters from the LANL fence line. There is on-going concern about the exposures from the early days of operations when the vents from buildings containing plutonium and uranium operations, and LANL's nuclear reactors, went largely unmonitored.

The report findings are prompting many people to ask that the federal government find out exactly how much radiation and chemicals New Mexicans have been exposed to throughout the history of LANL's operations. It finds that there is enough information of the releases that it is feasible to reconstruct the dose to the public.

The research has led to a significant increase in the amount of documentation available to the public concerning LANL operations. To read the full report, please visit

The CDC will hold a public meeting on Thursday, June 25 from 5 to 7 pm at the Hilton Hotel at Buffalo Thunder in Pojoaque. The agenda includes a discussion of the draft final report and the findings of the project.

Back to News Index