SALT LAKE CITY — If you've lived in Utah long, it's likely you know someone from a "downwinder" family.
Downwinders were impacted by radioactive material from nuclear tests in Nevada, and Rep. Ben McAdams wants Congress to expand protections and resources for them.
A law called RECA, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, acknowledged and provided payments for the tens or hundreds of thousands of people exposed to the fallout from nuclear tests, most of them in America's mountain west.
Mary Dickson, from Salt Lake City, spoke at a press conference organized by McAdams’ office.
“I am a downwinder. I grew up in Salt Lake City. I had thyroid cancer. I watched people in my neighborhood get sick and die. I lost a sister, and I have another sister who is fighting cancer now,” said Dickson.
Radiation commonly causes thyroid cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
McAdams’ held the news conference on July 6th for a reason. It’s an infamous date for downwinders — the anniversary of a test called Project Sedan, in which the U.S. government tested a 104 kiloton nuclear explosive, sending material more than 12,000 feet into the air.
McAdams wants to change the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to extend benefits to victims in all Utah counties and other states downwind, and to extend the trust fund created by the act to 2045. The fund is currently set to expire in 2022.
“Utah knows the harm that happened from our government’s testing of nuclear weapons from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s,” McAdams said.
Along with extending RECA, McAdams wants Congress to block funding for nuclear testing. Recent reporting from the Washington Post suggests that President Trump has considered a renewed test to demonstrate negotiating strength with Russia and China.