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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

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U s nuclear testing and radioactive fallout in the marshall islands

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

Elaine Cox MS-4

Tinsley Harrison Society

November 17, 2005


Outline
Outline Islands

  • 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



Examples radiation exposures
Examples Radiation Exposures Islands

  • 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



Factors determining lethality
Factors Determining Lethality Islands

  • Dose Rate

  • Distance from source

  • Shielding

  • Available medical therapy


Delayed radiation injury
Delayed Radiation Injury Islands

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

  • Leukemias

  • Growth retardation in children

  • Infertility

  • Birth defects

  • Cataracts


Delayed radiation injury1
Delayed Radiation Injury Islands

  • Blood vessels

    • Fibrosis of vessel walls, end organ damage

  • Skin

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

  • Heart

    • Pericardial fibrosis, myocardial ischemia


Delayed radiation injury2
Delayed Radiation Injury Islands

  • 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


Outline1
Outline Islands

  • 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


Marshall islands
Marshall Islands Islands

  • 29 atolls, 5 islands

  • 750,000 square miles of ocean

  • 70 square miles land area


Marshall islands1
Marshall Islands 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


Marshall islands2
Marshall Islands 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


1954 operation castle bravo
1954: Operation Castle Bravo Islands

  • 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



Bravo on rongelap
BRAVO on Rongelap Islands

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

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

  • Water in cisterns turned yellow


Us nuclear tests
US Nuclear Tests Islands

  • 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


Initial medical care
Initial Medical Care Islands

  • 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




Thyroid abnormalities
Thyroid Abnormalities Islands

  • 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


Other delayed effects
Other Delayed Effects Islands

  • 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


Outline2
Outline Islands

  • 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


Problems with us health care assistance
Problems with US Health Care Assistance Islands

  • 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


D o e marshall islands medical program
D.O.E. Marshall Islands Medical Program Islands

  • 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


D o e environmental monitoring
D.O.E. Environmental Monitoring Islands

  • 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


Outline3
Outline Islands

  • 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


Nuclear nomads
“Nuclear Nomads” Islands

  • 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


Nuclear nomads1
“Nuclear Nomads” Islands

  • Rongelap people returned in 1957

  • Evacuated Rongelap again in 1985

    • Because of fears of continued health effects from radiation

    • Facilitated by Greenpeace


Summary
Summary Islands

  • 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.


Resources
Resources Islands

  • Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease


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