Effects on Physical Health
During the relatively short history of the Nuclear Age, we have witnessed considerable damage to human physical health as a result of nuclear weapons. Long-term effects of nuclear explosions include cancers, tumors, genetic damage, infertility, and birth defects. Thyroid cancer has been especially linked to radiation exposure. As a result of the nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands in the 1940s and 1950s, for example, the number of thyroid cancers has increased by 200%. After nearly one hundred nuclear weapons tests in Nevada in the 1950s and 1960s, radioactive material entered into animal milk and severely affected the health of the people, especially children, who drank the contaminated milk. The children of Korean victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffer from health problems at 89 times the rate of people in their age group; over half died before the age of 10.
Analyzing and measuring the effects on health has been a difficult task for a variety of reasons. Many nuclear-weapon states have failed to provide significant information on the harmful side-effects of nuclear weapons. In most cases, nuclear testing has been shrouded in tremendous secrecy and even today gaining access to the necessary information is challenging. The details of Project SHAD, which tested the Navy’s ability to defend itself from gas or particle attacks, were kept secret for over 40 years. Though over 10,000 people were exposed to harmful substances during these tests, there have been no outreach programs to notify these people of the potential health consequences.
From a scientific standpoint, it has also proven difficult to measure the exact quantity of radiation to which a person may have been exposed, thus hindering the ability to analyze the resulting health problems. For all of the above reasons, many people have faced obstacles in obtaining compensation for health issues that have emerged as a result of these nuclear tests and explosions. The following articles and studies give insight into the health effects of nuclear weapons and the struggles faced while trying to analyze and prove the impact on human health.
- France to pay nuclear test compensation. BBC News, June 9, 2009.
- Arjun Makhijani, “A Readiness to Harm: The Health Effects of Nuclear Weapons Complexes,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2005.
- Kiyohiko Mabuchi, “NCI’s Development of Baseline Cancer and Radiation-Related Illness Rates Relating to Nuclear Weapons Testing in the Marshall Islands,” Testimony
Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, July 19, 2005.
- “NCI’s Development of Baseline Cancer and Radiation-Related Illness Rates Relating to Nuclear Weapons Testing in the Marshall Islands,” André Bouville, Testimony Before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources and the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the Committee on International Relations, May 25, 2005.
- “The Hanford Thyroid Disease Study,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), June 2002.
- Toxic Tugs - Public Poisons by J.B. Stone , April 17, 2002
- “A Feasibility Study of the Health Consequences to the American Population of Nuclear Weapons Test Conducted by the United States and Other Nations PDF,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), August 2001.
- "Estimated Exposures and Thyroid Doses Received by the American People from Iodine-131 in Fallout Following Nevada Atmospheric Nuclear Bomb Tests,” National Cancer Institute, October 1997.
- Civil Defense Faces New Perils by Ralph Lapp, 1994
- “Get the Facts About Exposure to I-131 Radiation.” National Cancer Institute.
- Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), 1990.
- 50,000 Baby Teeth by WK Wyant, Jr., June 13, 1959.
- Human Nuclear Experiments by Carah Ong
- Lasting Effects on Korean Hibakusha
You can find more information on the subject in the section "Effects of Nuclear Testing on Health and Environment"