Last year, Idaho leapt to the forefront of the debate over whether the federal government should compensate former victims of nuclear fallout from radioactive tests and emissions (BW, "The Low Use Segment," November 17, 2004). And while the government has still not accepted full responsibility-at least by way of compensation-in heavily effected states like Idaho, Wyoming and Washington, at least it's trying to help doctors deal with its mess.
The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has just released a new video instructing doctors on how to combat the mental, as well as physical, ailments expressed by nuclear downwinders. Titled Hanford: The Psychological Dimensions of Radiation Exposure, the 30-minute video concedes that large radioactive releases did occur throughout the US-and that patients and doctors alike struggle against the vagueness of what, exactly, resulted from that exposure.
"Both the doctor and the patient are grappling with the unknown here," says Dr. Pam Tucker of the, ATSDR in the video. "You have an exposure that may lead to a health effect, and may not lead to a health effect."
Recent studies at Chernobyl and the Marshall Islands have shown that exposure to radioactive iodine leads to an increased risk of developing thyroid diseases. Idaho has a unique history of being double-dosed with radiation, both from Hanford and from nuclear test explosions at the Nevada Test Site, making the video essential viewing for doctors and downwinders statewide. To watch it, visit http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov