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 be released.

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 Research.

``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 United States.

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 Branch.

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,'' Wachholz said.

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 status.

``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.


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 thyroid diseases.

"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