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Cold War Nuclear Weapons Put St. Louis Community At Risk—in 2023

Unio of Concerned Scientists, April 17, 2023, Chanese A Forte

Current-day residents near St. Louis, Missouri, are living with chronic health conditions and an increased cancer burden due to contamination from uranium mining and processes used in the production of nuclear weapons at the start of the atomic age.

The 19-mile stretch of Coldwater Creek includes areas surrounding the St. Louis Lambert International Airport to the Missouri River. The contamination in the region is from World War II-era processing of uranium by Mallinckrodt Chemical Company upstream, and later by the improper storage of nuclear waste at the airport (a decision made by the Department of Energy).

Impacted community members have fought for decades to receive compensation for the health effects and environmental waste cleanup. 

Our illnesses are from CHRONIC, low-level exposure from ionizing radiation over YEARS, through ingestion and inhalation.Dr. Kim Visintine

Recently, federal investigators announced they want to test for nuclear waste at Fort Belle Fontaine Park which is owned by St. Louis County and about 17 miles from Jana Elementary in Florissant. The Jana Elementary community also has concerns surrounding radiation exposure related to the Manhattan Project, and were recently making headlines for seeking answers and getting conflicting exposure reports.

Unfortunately, the residents of the St. Louis metro area are not alone in their concerns. Impacted communities and nuclear weapons policy experts know that US government-led testing and production of nuclear weapons in other regions of the United States also affected others, yet those living with the health and environmental impacts are being denied the opportunity to even apply for compensation. 

Specifically, much of the funding within the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) is for people who lived down-wind of nuclear explosive testing areas, veterans involved in such testing, and uranium workers who developed disease associated with their occupational exposure. The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) compensates nuclear weapons complex workers. 

But these programs have serious limitations and leave out people who were potentially exposed. For the myriad regions where nuclear weapons materials were created, shipped, or stored—that like the St. Louis metro area likely are still contaminated—the residents remain without compensation for the harm done. 

I was fortunate to chat with Dr. Kim Visintine, a member of Coldwater Creek: Just the Facts Please, to ask her about the work she and others are doing on the ground.  

Dr. Visintine has a background in engineering and physics, a doctorate in nursing, and was successful in getting the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to study the area around the creek, which confirmed the link between contamination and higher rates of illnesses. 

Our guiding light is science first at Coldwater Creek: Just the Facts Please. But personally, we’ve all been exposed and many of us didn’t even know we were exposed. Dr. Kim Visintine…………………………………………………….. more


April 18, 2023 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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