The Ill Wind

The Ill Wind...

The Iodine Wind


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) revealed recently that as many as 75,000 Americans were exposed to raidioactive fallout from bomb tests in the 1950s and 1960s at levels high enough to cause thyriod cancer. Each of the 90 above ground tests in Nevada sent clouds of raidioactive iodine (I-131) and strontium (S-90) into the sky. In the weeks following each test, the drifting chemical haze settled as dry particles or rain across the country, especially in the states immediatly downwind: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and Utah.

Scientists worry most about those who grew up on farms in those state. When cows graze on grass doused with I-131, the chemical enters their milk. Children under six, who have small thyriod glands and consumed a lot of milk, recieved three to seven times higher doses of I-131 than adults did, according to the NCI, and added, they were especially likely to get a high dose if they drank milk from a family cow. I-131 has a half life of only eight days, wich means that milk was shipped to a dairy and then to the super-market with enough for most of the raidioactivity to fade. "But if you're living on a farm, the milk from your back yard cow may be just 12 hours old when you drink it," says Joseph Lyon, an epidemiologist at Utah State. "That fresh milk still has a lot of radioactivity in it."

Kids who grew up during the Nevada bomb tests years are just now entering thier fifties, an age at which cancer rates skyrockets. Estimates of the number of thyoid cancers caused by the tests range anywhere from 10,000 to 75,000, of which perhaps 30 percent, according to the NCI, have already been diagnosed. When detected early, the disease can usually be cured.

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