Addressing public health risks from operating and closed US nuclear weapons facilities
Funding:  National Science Foundation
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Project Summary

The legacy of nuclear weapons production, testing, research, and waste management affects the physical and social health of communities throughout the United States. Both radiation and chemical contamination have affected ground and surface waters, air, and soil; in some cases, additional contamination continues.
Recent history has brought increased awareness about environmental contamination caused by and coming from facilities in the US nuclear weapons complex. The declassification of government documents has provided information about accidental and routine releases of hazardous contaminants. Dose reconstruction and epidemiology studies have highlighted the health risks associated with exposures to the contaminants to both workers and the public. Community members nearby facilities are demanding answers about their health. They want to know: What harms might be caused by exposures released during the production and manufacturing of nuclear weapons components? What health effects can occur because of the fallout from nuclear testing? Who is likely to suffer, and when? Who is responsible for the diseases that are appearing among members of their community?
The objective of this effort is to make current knowledge about the health effects of low-level ionizing radiation more accessible to people who face on-going risks from radiological contamination US nuclear weapons facilities. This is accomplished in two ways: by providing technical assistance to community groups about public health issues from radiological exposures and by studying institutional and social factors in clean-up and long-term stewardship of contaminated sites.
This effort has its origins in the work of the Childhood Cancer Research Institute in the late 1980s. In 1996 the Childhood Cancer Research Institute merged with the George Perkins Marsh Institute, a research center at Clark University in Worcester MA. The result was the creation of the Community-Based Hazard Management Program. Until 2005 the Community-Based Hazard Management Program worked collaboratively with community groups around US nuclear weapons facilities by providing them with technical assistance. The program has addressed environmental and community health issues arising from activities in a number of communities, including California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, and Utah.
Now, SERI is picking up where the Community-Based Hazard Management Program left off.

Read more about the theoretical background of this project.

 

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