The boundaries of downwinder country, areas showered with radioactive iodine during the Hanford Nuclear Reservation's dirtier days, have grown dramatically.
People who were children in Spokane, Walla Walla, Ritzville and other cities 100 miles or more from Hanford in the 1940s and 1950s may have received 10 times more exposure of iodine 131 than previously believed, said the chairman of a panel that issued a new study on the nuclear facility's radiation releases Thursday.At the same time, the panel reduced its previous estimates of iodine 131 exposure to the thyroids of infants in the Tri-Cities area to about one-third of the 1990 estimates.
"We now have a much clearer understanding of how different forms of radioactive iodine were transported in the air," said Dr. John Till, chairman of the Hanford Environmental Dose Reconstruction Project's Technical Steering Panel. Members of the panel are appointed by the state health departments of Washington and Oregon and by American Indian tribes.
The higher ranges of exposure are now estimated to be about 870 rad to an infant's thyroid as a result of releases during the period of 1944-47, down from the 1990 estimate of 2,900 rad. A rad, the basic unit of radiation dose, measures the amount of radiation to which body tissue is exposed.
Estimates for Spokane ranged between 2.8 and 44 rad with a "median" exposure of 11 rad.
Lynn Stembridge, director of Spokane-based Hanford Education Action League and a member of the steering panel, said the figures for Spokane are "certainly high enough to cause concern."
Anyone who was growing up in Spokane or other Eastern Washington communities during 1944-47 should be "extra vigilant about your health care and insist on a thyroid exam," said Stembridge.
The report, representing the second phase of a $30 million research effort that began in 1987, did little to ease the anger of a large faction of downwinders who say they have no trust in a government that doused them with radiation and then lied about it for more than 40 years.
Lois Camp, a leader of a Tri-Cities downwinder group, called the report "just another example of 50 years of deception and deceit."
She and other downwinders who attended Thursday's release of the report at the Pasco Red Lion Inn called for an end to studies.
"We don't need $25 million on studies," proclaimed Walla Walla downwinder Kay Sutherland.