Trump apparently wants a nuclear test. It could be bad for your health via Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

By Sara Z. Kutchesfahani

In recent weeks, the Trump administration reportedly discussed the possibility of doing something the United States has not done since 1992: resuming explosive testing of nuclear weapons. Since the creation of the nuclear bomb, at least eight nations have detonated 2,056 nuclear test explosions at test sites around the world. Ten years ago, Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto created an informative but scary time-lapse map depicting all of these explosions. In it, each nation gets a flashing dot on the map whenever it detonates a nuclear weapon, with a running tally kept on the top and bottom bars of the screen. While the story begins in 1945 with the first ever nuclear weapon test (code-named Trinity), the real action comes in 1962, when there were 178 tests globally, more than in any other year. Not only is the rapid rate alarming, but where they happened—mainly on the lands of indigenous people—is also shocking.


Half of the 2,056 nuclear tests were conducted by one country alone: the United States. Yes, that’s right: the total number of US-conducted tests stands at 1,030, which is more than the number of tests done by the other seven nuclear testing countries combined. Most of the explosions took place at the height of the Cold War in a series of tit-for-tat exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union.


Why should the average person care about all this? Well, because there was and is an enormous human cost of nuclear weapons testing. If you go back and watch the Hashimoto video, you’ll notice none of the 1,030 US tests were conducted anywhere near Washington, DC. Likewise, none of the Soviet, French, or British tests were carried out around Moscow, Paris, or London. Instead, the explosions took place mainly on the lands of indigenous people, such as in the Marshall Islands, or in some cases, in the country’s own backyard, such as in New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada.


If that was the effect on sheep, imagine the effect on humans. Cancers associated with radiation exposure (including leukemia and thyroid cancer) were all too common. Women suffered from miscarriages. Those who didn’t miscarry gave birth to babies with severe birth defects, some of which were so severe that the infants didn’t look human. In 1990, US Congress created the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to help rectify these injustices. To date, over 36,000 people have claimed benefits from the fund, giving a sense of the scale of the harm. But this is a lower limit. An independent study has estimated that radiation from testing caused more than 340,000 excess American deaths between 1951 and 1973.
The harms are not just a thing of the past: Utah “downwinders” are still suffering and dying as a result of health effects from nuclear tests conducted upwind in Nevada decades ago. One such downwinder is Mary Dickson, who has seen friends and family die of cancer, and has even had her own battles with it. In 2007, she wrote Exposed—an unpublished screenplay based on a true story about her sister, a fellow downwinder, and her deteriorating health due to the effects of the above-ground nuclear tests.

Read more at Trump apparently wants a nuclear test. It could be bad for your health

This entry was posted in *English and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply