Since 1951, all people have been exposed to some level of radiation due to weapons testing. While scientists believe that the risk of cancer from this exposure is small for most people, it is important to understand the dangers of radiation and how it can affect our health. Over the past century, there has been a growing awareness of the risks associated with radioactivity. It is known that exposure to a high dose of radiation can cause damage to internal organs, skin, and eyes.
Radiation can kill some cells and modify others, leading to organ damage and even death. If the modified cells are not repaired, they can cause cancer. People may also be exposed when eating meat and milk from animals that graze on contaminated vegetation. The National Cancer Institute has studied the fallout from the first atomic bomb detonated in 1945 in New Mexico.
They concluded that any excess of cancer cases that emerged would have been limited to those who were alive at the time of the explosion and that the effects on those born in the following years would be too small to expect additional cases. The Institute also pointed out that most of New Mexico's exposure to Trinity was small compared to subsequent radiation exposure from the Nevada test site and the consequences of atmospheric nuclear testing elsewhere. Residents of New Mexico have been fighting for government recognition, saying that generations of people have been dealing with the effects of the explosion. Congress is considering legislation that would include downwinders in New Mexico in a federal compensation program for individuals exposed to radiation released during atmospheric tests or employees in the uranium industry.
The Institute's research used more than 120 million calculations to approximate doses to organs or tissues most at risk of exposure to radiation. The thyroid was at the top of the list, with the largest doses estimated in Torrance and Guadalupe counties based on the rainfall pattern. All counties in the state were included in the analysis. While it is difficult to measure the total impact on New Mexico residents, institute officials say that their study is one of the most detailed assessments of exposure to nuclear tests ever conducted. Some studies estimate that cancer deaths due to global radiation doses from nuclear test programs in the atmosphere of five nuclear-weapon states amount to hundreds of thousands. It is clear that nuclear testing can have serious consequences for our health, and it is important for us to understand these risks so we can take steps to protect ourselves and our families.