‘Downwinders’ deserve their due
Idaho Mountain Express
June 16, 2006
Our Opinion

The news out of Washington is a baffling set of contradictions. The Federal Emergency Management Agency freely and hurriedly ladled out $1.4 billion in aid to hundreds of ineligible Katrina hurricane claimants—call it fraud—and just as quickly peeled off $60,000 in compensation to families of 24 Iraqis shot and killed in Haditha by U.S. Marines who’re being investigated for murder.

But several hundred Idahoans have been denied compensation from the same government for illnesses they and experts contend were the result of radioactive fallout from Nevada nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s. Mind you, the government doesn’t reject claims of all “downwinder” families living where radioactive fallout rained down. Washington has paid claims to families in Utah, Nevada and Arizona—a handsome total of $440 million, in fact.

But nothing for Idahoans.

That despite data showing that four Idaho counties—Blaine, Custer, Gem and Lemhi—ranked among the nation’s top five in per capita thyroid dosage of radiation.

Idahoans claiming illnesses from nuclear dust were just as unwitting and unknowing victims of secret nuclear tests that showered them as were residents in the other states, and surely deserve better of their government than cold indifference.

If the U.S. Treasury can shell out $1.4 billion to pay fraudulent Katrina claims, it certainly can find just and relatively modest compensation for ill survivors of nuclear tests about which they were not warned and therefore could not escape.