Miner Editorial | Expanding the Downwinders Act is vital for Mohave residents
The United States conducted 1,055 nuclear weapons tests in the Southwest from 1945 to 1962. More than 225 of those tests were conducted above ground before U.S. military officials truly understood the lasting effects of nuclear radiation, according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. The fallout created by nuclear weapons tests affected thousands of U.S. citizens throughout 12 states – including Mohave County residents who lived “downwind” of those testing sites.
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 was passed to aid victims of radiation exposure, and who lived with the threat of radiation-based cancers or other serious illnesses. The legislation awarded grants to victims who were affected in select regions of the country.
These “downwinders,” according to the 1990 act, are entitled to payments of up to $50,000 if they later developed breast, thyroid, lung cancer or other illnesses after testing was finished.
But Mohave County was omitted from the list of exposed areas. The area received two-to-three times the radiation of other places in Arizona that are covered.
Senators Martha McSally (R-Arizona), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Nevada Democratic Senator Jacky Rosen introduced an amendment to the act earlier this month. According to a press release from McSally’s office, current law deems those in Mohave County and Clark County, Nevada ineligible to receive partial reparations for serious medical conditions stemming from nuclear radiation exposure. That’s due to “arbitrary boundary lines,” the release states.
The introduced amendment would remove those “arbitrary” lines and allow residents of Mohave and Clark counties to receive those partial reparations.
The number of these downwinders decreases by the day due to the many cancers and illnesses caused by the government’s testing. However, their families are still suffering and will continue to suffer as the years go on.
This amendment needs to pass. It cannot fail in committee again.
The lives of these Mohave County residents, the care they were promised as part of these tests, and their families depend on this change.