Albuquerque, New Mexico, February 1, 2017: The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC) has just completed a Health Impact Assessment on the effects of the July 16, 1945, Trinity test on New Mexicans and the potential benefits of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) amendments on residents of the Tularosa Basin. The report will be released to the public the week of February 6, 2017, at three separate events in Tularosa, Socorro, and Albuquerque.
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) is a federal law originally passed by the United States Congress in 1990 to award financial reparations to Nevada Test Site Downwinders, on-site test participants during atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, and uranium miners and millers who developed cancer and/or other specific illnesses as a result of radioactive fallout or radon gasses to which they were exposed. Trinity test downwinders in New Mexico were not included in the original Act nor were they included in year 2000 amendments to the Act. Residents of southern New Mexico, in particular, have historically experienced high levels of cancer and other illnesses since the 1945 test. Currently proposed Congressional bills would include New Mexico and potentially award Trinity downwinders reparations to account for their unknowing and unwilling participation as bystanders to the Trinity test on July 16, 1945, incidentally the first atmospheric nuclear test ever to take place in the world.
Discussions surrounding the status of RECA since its inception have focused heavily on the financial and economic benefits (and disadvantages) of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Constitutional and Specialized Tort Litigation section. The value of the Act has not been explored in terms of public health. In Fall 2015, the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC) began work with the New Mexico Health Equity Partnership (NMHEP), an initiative of the Santa Fe Community Foundation, to research the impact that an amended RECA would have on the public health of New Mexicans. A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) relies on various data sources, prioritizing stakeholder feedback, to demonstrate how a policy or program, like RECA, would impact the health of the affected communities and makes recommendations to mitigate health risks within the decision-making processes.
The TBDC HIA team would like to thank the community members who completed health surveys, participated in focus groups, and provided written testimonies. We would also like to thank the New Mexico Health Equity Partnership (NMHEP), an initiative of the Santa Fe Community Foundation.
A copy of the report will be available on our website after the release events: http://www.trinitydownwinders.com/health-impact-assessment.