GROUPS ATTACK GOV'T ON NUKE COVER-UP
by The Associated Press
July 23, 1997
SIOUX FALLS, S. D. (AP) -- Two nuclear industry watchdog groups on
Wednesday asked two Cabinet secretaries to make public a long-delayed
government study on radiation exposure from nuclear tests in the 1950s.
The Military Production Network and Physicians for Social
Responsibility wrote U.S. Energy Secretary Federico Pena and Health and Human Services
Secretary Donna Shalala, asking that the National Cancer Institute study
They say the cancer institute -- part of the Department of Health and
Human Services -- has for years withheld information about radiation
exposure millions of Americans received from the tests, even though
evidence suggests the releases may be linked to thyroid cancer.
``This is appalling that the National Cancer Institute did not make
this available as soon as possible. It's been too long sitting on this,''
said Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental
``The thyroid doses to children who were around in the 1950s and
drinking milk almost throughout the United States are much, much greater than
previously thought,'' said Makhijani, who has seen some of the data.
About 1,200 cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed each year in the
The ongoing study, begun in 1983, looks at the dispersal of
radioactive iodine-131 from nuclear weapons tests in Nevada between 1951 and 1958.
The material was carried by prevailing winds and deposited, sometimes by
rainfall, in much of the continental United States and parts of Canada.
Much of the criticism of NCI inaction on releasing information has
been aimed at Bruce Wachholz, who heads the institute's Radiation Effects
Wachholz said on Wednesday that he hopes to have the report released
by the end of September. He also confirmed that officials at the Energy
Department have received some study results.
``We certainly will release the report as soon as we can,''
One person not happy about the delay is Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.,
who was instrumental two months ago in pressuring NCI to discuss the study's
``I think somebody has some explaining to do,'' the Senate minority
leader said Wednesday by phone from Washington. ``I am extremely
concerned about the slow progress of the study.''
The watchdog organizations' letter also asks President Clinton to
form a group to ``investigate the cover-up of this data and to make
recommendations for policy changes.''
Susan Gordon, director of the Military Production Network and a
co-author of the letter, said the NCI apparently is unwilling to deal
with the legacy of nuclear tests.
``I think that this points out that the agency is still run by
old warriors (and) the Cold War mentality is still deeply entrenched in
these agencies,'' Gordon said on Wednesday.
PSR PRESS RELEASE
Physicians Challenge Government Cover-up: Call for Release,
Investigation of Radiation Data
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 23, 1997
CONTACT: Robert Tiller or Lisa Ledwidge at 202-898-0150
In a letter sent today to Secretary of Energy Federico Pena and
Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, Physicians for
Social Responsibility (PSR) called for immediate release of a long
suppressed study in the hands of the Radiation Effects Branch of the
National Cancer Institute (NCI). The NCI study, ordered by Public Law
97-414 fourteen years ago reveals that baby boomers exposed as children
to radioactive fallout from open-air nuclear testing from 1951 to 1962
were put at significantly increased risk for thyroid cancer and other
"Someone is playing politics with the public's health and it has got to
stop," said Robert K. Musil, Ph.D., Executive Director of the 20,000
member physician-led organization that was founded in 1961 to inform the
public of the dangers of radiation from nuclear weapons and testing and
which won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1985. The NCI study reportedly
details a number of fallout hot spots around the nation where exposure
levels to radioactive Iodine-131 from fallout exceeded the level of 10
rads that can produce adverse health effects.
"There is an ethical imperative for government officials to take action
to prevent health dangers and to notify the public about them."
According to Dr. Musil, "there is absolutely no excuse for this sort of
Cold War cover-up in 1997."
In addition to prompt release of the NCI study, PSR is calling for the
creation of formal mechanisms to assess the risk to the public from
these radioactive releases and to provide relevant medical care to those
who face health risks from exposures.
PSR is also willing to work with, and calls upon, President Clinton to
create an official body similar to the Advisory Committee on Human
Radiation Experiments, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the
cover-up of this data and to recommend policy changes to a Cabinet-level
authority, such as the Human Radiation Interagency Working Group
Compliments of Proposition One Committee