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May 03, 1979 - Image 12

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1979-05-03

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Page 12-Thursday, May 3, 1979-The Michigan Daily
Utah town suffers from 50's atomic testing

<Continued from Page5>
had died because of fall-out because
most people went to Salt Lake City and
other cities with major hospitals to un-
dergo treatment.
"WE HAVE many cases recorded
where people had radiation burns," he
said. Town people also tell of friends
whose lips became blistered and who
lost their hair for brief periods and of
people who developed mysterious
rashes.
But Wright, a quiet, lean country
lawyer who hooks one of his pointed
cowboy boots onto a low table as he
speaks, said the most dangerous fall-
out was that which fell on the land.
"This is a farming area and people
drank milk from their cow, which ate
the grass, and grew vegetables and
fruit in their gardens. And that is how
the fall-out got into the people's
systems.
"YOU COULDN'T see the fall-out,
but people will tell you time and time
again how the big cloud would appear
and just settle over the area,
presumably because we are surroun-
ded by hills," Wright added.
"Children would come in from play
and their parents would point a Geiger
counter at them and the needle would
go off the scale. Some people just didn't

understand that was dangerous,"*
Wright said.
"A lot of people had Geiger counters
because they were trying to find
uranium. Some thought they had found
themselves a uranium deposit when
their Geiger counters began clicking
and would file a claim. Some even sold
their claims, but you had only to scrape
the dust off the surface with your shoe
and you had no reading at all," Wright
said.
THOMAS TOLD of a rich man who
wanted to buy the entire town - which
has grown since the 1950s from 4,500 to
16,000 inhabitants - because he was
convinced it was just one big uranium
deposit, until the dust blew away.
Wright said the devices were ex-
ploded when the winds were pointing
away from Las Vegas, to the south, or
San Francisco or Los Angeles, to the
west, because of their big populations.
"Many people here are still paying
debts caused by vast hospital bills," he
said. "Some had insurance and some
didn't, and treatment for relatives has
cost as much as 100,000 dollars."
A DEPUTY assistant counsel for the
Department of Health, Education and
Welfare, Donald Gonya, told a Senate
Health Subcommittee hearing in Las
Vegas last month it was impossible to

distinguish between people who
developed cancer from radiation and
those who were stricken with cancer
from other sources.
"Each claimant may believe his or
her cancer was caused by radiation ex-
posure ... yet, it is statistically more
probable in each case the illness was
caused by something else," he said.
But Senator Edward Kennedy, who
headed the subcommittee, said after
the hearing he had Aro doubt there was a
link between the testing and the high
incidence of cancer in the area.
DR. JOSEPH Lyon, an epidemologist
from the University of Utah, published
a study in the New England Journal of
Medicine last February which con-
cluded that twice as many children who
lived under the fall-out died of leukemia
as would have been normally expected.
Wright said there had been talks with
officials on the question of compen-
sation, but the officials had not reached
the point of admitting liability.
Asked why it had taken the people
here so long to ask for compensation, a
local newspaper reporter, Bruce
Trethewy, emphasized this was a very
patriotic community.
"MORMONS ARE taught to obey the
law of their church and the law of man
and that is what they did," said

Trethewy, who is not a Morni on.
"People here do not question
authority."
Wright, who is a Mormon, agreed
with this view. "The people here felt the
government had a good reason to do
whatever it was doing and would not do
anything against their interests," he
said.
"But some are finally becoming in-
censed, although they are unlikely to
start marching down the main street.
There is no specific time gap between
fall-out and a person developing cancer
and a lot of people who are healthy now
may come down with cancer."

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