U.S. Nuclear Testing and Radioactive Fallout in the Marshall Islands
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U.S. Nuclear Testing and Radioactive Fallout in the Marshall Islands. Elaine Cox MS-4 Tinsley Harrison Society November 17, 2005. Outline. Effects of ionizing radiation on humans 1954 Castle BRAVO and fallout effects U.S. presence in the Marshall Islands since 1958
U.S. Nuclear Testing and Radioactive Fallout in the Marshall Islands

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Slide 1

U.S. Nuclear Testing and Radioactive Fallout in the Marshall Islands

Elaine Cox MS-4

Tinsley Harrison Society

November 17, 2005

Slide 2

Outline

  • Effects of ionizing radiation on humans

  • 1954 Castle BRAVO and fallout effects

  • U.S. presence in the Marshall Islands since 1958

  • Displacement of Marshall Islanders

Slide 3

Types of Radiation

Slide 4

Examples Radiation Exposures

  • Rad - “radiation absorbed dose”

    • 100 rad = 1 Gray (Gy)

  • Chest x-ray - 0.06 - 0.11 mGy

  • Barium enema - 7.0 mGy

  • Lowest dose with observable effect

    • 0.1-0.5 Gy

  • Lethal dose

    • LD50 1.4 – 4.5 Gy

    • Certain death >10Gy

Slide 5

Acute Radiation Syndrome

Slide 6

Factors Determining Lethality

  • Dose Rate

  • Distance from source

  • Shielding

  • Available medical therapy

Slide 7

Delayed Radiation Injury

  • Cancers - thyroid, skin, breast, lung, GI

  • Leukemias

  • Growth retardation in children

  • Infertility

  • Birth defects

  • Cataracts

Slide 8

Delayed Radiation Injury

  • Blood vessels

    • Fibrosis of vessel walls, end organ damage

  • Skin

    • Radiation dermatitis: desquamation, impaired wound healing, infection, ulceration, fibrosis

  • Heart

    • Pericardial fibrosis, myocardial ischemia

Slide 9

Delayed Radiation Injury

  • Lungs

    • Acute lung injury, radiation pneumonitis, interstitial fibrosis

  • GI tract

    • Esophagitis, gastritis, enteritis, colitis, mucosal ulceration, atrophy, and fibrosis

  • Kidneys

    • Fibrosis, hyalinization of glomeruli, urinary bladder fibrosis and ulceration

Slide 10

Outline

  • Effects of ionizing radiation on humans

  • 1954 Castle BRAVO and fallout effects

  • U.S. presence in the Marshall Islands since 1958

  • Displacement of Marshall Islanders

Slide 11

Marshall Islands

  • 29 atolls, 5 islands

  • 750,000 square miles of ocean

  • 70 square miles land area

Slide 12

Marshall Islands

  • 500 – 2000 BC: Micronesian settlers

  • 1600’s: Spanish, Dutch, English, Germans

  • Early 1900’s – WWII: Japanese control

  • After WWII – UN Strategic Trust Territory, state administered by US

Slide 13

Marshall Islands

  • 1946 – 1958

    • 67 Nuclear detonations in the Marshall Islands

  • 1950’s – Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD)

  • 1958

    • US, Great Britain, USSR agreed to suspend nuclear weapons testing

Slide 14

1954: Operation Castle Bravo

  • 0645h, March 1st, 1954

  • 15,000 kilotons

  • Three times more powerful than planned

  • Natives not evacuated beforehand

    • Previous fallout clouds had traveled away from inhabited islands

    • Reduction in military budget

    • Inadequate numbers of ships and aircrafts

Slide 15

Crossroads BAKER 1946

Slide 16

BRAVO on Rongelap

  • “Like the sun rising in the west” followed by blast wave

  • “Snow-like” material fell for several hours- CaO

  • Water in cisterns turned yellow

Slide 17

US Nuclear Tests

  • H+6hrs

    • Visible fallout on Rongelap atoll

  • H+24hrs

    • 2/3rd’s inhabitants experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, itching and burning skin

  • H+2wks

    • Many with cutaneous lesions, hair loss

Slide 18

Initial Medical Care

  • Evacuations 48-78 hours later

  • Medical team arrives 8 days after detonation

    • Extensive exams and lab studies performed daily

  • Project 4.1 authorized

    • Exposed vs. Control groups, long term study

    • Classified as Secret Restricted Data

Slide 19

Doses to the Exposed Marshallese

Slide 20

Dose Estimates (Gy) to the Thyroid

Slide 21

Thyroid Abnormalities

  • Neoplasms with >2.5 Gy exposure, on ave 10yr after exposure

  • Hypothyroidism with >54 Gy exposure

  • Cretinism – 2 infants

  • Growth retardation

  • Diverse abnormalities

  • One-third of exposed Rongelap

  • Largest incidence in children <10yo

  • 1966- all exposed place on thyroxine

Slide 22

Other Delayed Effects

  • Hematologic manifestations

    • Neutropenia, lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia

  • Chromosomal aberrations

  • Acute myeloblastic leukemia

    • One case, 19 yo boy, exposed at 1 yo

  • Growth retardation

    • Most cases found to be related to hypothyroidism

Slide 23

Outline

  • Effects of ionizing radiation on humans

  • 1954 Castle BRAVO and fallout effects

  • U.S. presence in the Marshall Islands since 1958

  • Displacement of Marshall Islanders

Slide 24

Problems with US Health Care Assistance

  • Multiple military and government institutions involved

  • Failure to assign responsibility, financial support, and authority

  • Poor communication

    • Language and cultural barriers

    • Political tension, mistrust, fear of further illness

Slide 25

D.O.E. Marshall Islands Medical Program

  • Began in 1954

  • 253 exposed and 91 non-exposed individuals

  • Annual health evaluation and cancer screening

  • Year round care since 1998

  • Finances referrals to Hawaii

Slide 26

D.O.E. Environmental Monitoring

  • Began in 1972

  • Samples plants, foods, marine animals, soil, and water on 10 atolls

  • Whole body radiation counter and research center

  • Prevention of radioactive uptake by plants

Slide 27

Outline

  • Effects of ionizing radiation on humans

  • 1954 Castle BRAVO and fallout effects

  • U.S. presence in the Marshall Islands since 1958

  • Displacement of Marshall Islanders

Slide 28

“Nuclear Nomads”

  • Bikini Islanders agreed to temporarily leave atoll in 1946

  • Still have not returned

    • Kili Island

  • Displacement resulted in major change in lifestyle and diet

    • Diabetes

    • Psychological trauma

    • Dependence on US

Slide 29

“Nuclear Nomads”

  • Rongelap people returned in 1957

  • Evacuated Rongelap again in 1985

    • Because of fears of continued health effects from radiation

    • Facilitated by Greenpeace

Slide 30

Summary

  • Marshallese experienced many short and long term health effects from nuclear fallout.

  • Geographic displacement has contributed to public health problems.

  • Cultural barriers, poor communication, and excessive bureaucracy has complicated U.S. attempts to repair damage.

Slide 31

Resources

  • Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease


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