Monday, May 17, 2010

Matheson on Downwinders

Dear Bob,
Since I was first elected to Congress, I have been fighting to hold the federal government accountable for the harm done to Utahns from exposure to radioactive fallout from nuclear testing.
From 1951 until 1992, the U.S. government conducted over 900 nuclear weapons tests at the Nevada Test Site, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Of the 100 above ground tests, nearly one fourth were bigger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. At one time we thought only rural populations in the West were at risk. Recent information proves otherwise. The lone comprehensive study we have completed, of one radioactive isotope (Iodine 131), showed concentrations in every county across America. Evidence compiled over the last 13 years points to the likelihood that there are even more victims in Utah and other states than are already acknowledged under current law.
Now is the time for Congress to take a serious look at expanding the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) - first passed in 1990 and amended in 2000. Along with New Mexico Senator Tom Udall and Congressman Ben Lujan, I have sponsored the bipartisan RECA Amendments Act of 2010, HR 5119.
Under the current law, residents of only 10 Utah counties (who suffer from 18 types of radiation-associated cancer) are eligible to apply for payments. I hear many stories similar to one I heard recently from a man whose wife spent a lengthy period of time as a child just four miles beyond the Sevier County line--one of the "designated affected areas" and whose compensation claim was denied. Also, it adds renal cancer or any other chronic renal disease to the list of compensable diseases for employees of mines and mills.
I am pushing for a Congressional hearing on this issue to draw attention to new information and to raise awareness. If government deception has endangered people's health, we must shine a light on what really happened and expose the truth.


U.S. Representative
2nd District of Utah

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