Facing the truth

After decades of denial, US admits that radiation killed nuclear weapons workers

Published: Monday 15 May 2000

After issuing countless statements to the contrary in the past decades, the US government has at last admitted that workers who helped make nuclear weapons in the early years of the nuclear age were exposed to radiation and chemicals that produced cancer and early death.

The admission comes in the wake of the US government's most comprehensive review of studies of worker health and raw health data. It reveals that employees in 14 nuclear weapons plants recorded an unnatural rate of cancer affliction caused by radiation exposure. The review also states that 22 categories of cancer -- ranging from bone to bladder to leukemia -- occurred at an abnormal rate.

The review, which was ordered by President Bill Clinton in July 1999, also confirms that workers in certain nuclear plants had developed beryllium disease, an incurable lung ailment. Beryllium is the substance that these plants supplied to the government for manufacturing bombs and the workers had suffered after inhaling its dust.

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