H-Bomb Guinea Pigs! Natives Suffering Decades After New Mexico Tests via Indian Country

It has taken nearly 70 years, but the National Cancer Institute is launching a study to determine how much radiation the residents of New Mexico were exposed to that fateful day, and what effect it could have on their lives.
“No one was told, everything was top secret, and that’s the mistake,” said Marian Naranjo, Santa Clara Pueblo, director of Honor Our Pueblo Existence, an area community group. “Because when you look at what people here in New Mexico were doing during 1945, they were farmers. And in July you get up at the crack of dawn to go out and do your work.”
In New Mexico, American Indians would begin to experience many types of cancers—rare cancers as well as multiple primary cancers. Cordova said that her father, who was three years old at the time of the test, had two oral cancers and one gastric cancer, none of them the result of metastasis. He never smoked or drank.

“At one time I could name ten people who had brain tumors,” said Cordova, who grew up in Tularosa. “The town I grew up in is probably about 3,500 people. The normal incidence of brain tumors in the [general] population is about one in 5,000. So that gives you some idea on the incidence of these things. Brain tumors are associated with radiation exposure.”
Bake sales sometimes pay for pain medications, but most often people simply do not have the resources to take care of themselves in the face of such devastating diseases.

“People in these small communities are almost always underinsured or uninsured, and then they’re left to deal with these horrific, horrific cancers with little to no insurance or means for taking care of themselves,” said Cordova.

New Mexicans affected by the Trinity test are not eligible for remuneration under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which covers virtually all nuclear and uranium workers and so-called down-winders except those affected by the Trinity test, in part because no one has ever before formally studied what happened in New Mexico after Trinity.

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