Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium
The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium was started in 2005 by Tina Cordova and Fred Tyler along with other residents of Tularosa to compile data on the cancers and other diseases that plague the communities surrounding the Trinity Test on July 16, 1945. DID YOU KNOW There were families living as close as 12 miles to the Trinity test site in 1945 and there were Thousands of families living in a 50 mile radius. The bomb was a plutonium based bomb and it was packed with 13 pounds of weapons grade plutonium but only 3 pounds of the plutonium fissioned. The remaining 10 pounds of plutonium was joined with the soil, sand, animal and plant life and incinerated. The resultant fireball exceeded the atmosphere and penetrated the stratosphere traveling more than 7 miles high. The bomb produced more heat and more light than the sun.
Many people who we’ve spoken to that were alive at the time thought they were experiencing the end of the world. Plutonium has a half life of more than 24,000 years. Once the radioactive ash fell from the sky as fallout it settled on everything on the soil, in the water and on the skin of every living thing both human and animal. In 1945 most if not all the small villages inside a 50 mile radius of the Trinity Site had no running water. The water sources at the time were cisterns, holding ponds or ditches. As a result of the fallout the water sources were contaminated. In 1945 there were no grocery stores in the small villages surrounding the Trinity site. All the meat, dairy and produce people consumed was either raised, harvested or grown by them. It too was contaminated.
As a result of the overexposure to radiation, there was an increase in infant mortality in the months following the Trinity test in New Mexico. The National average death rate was 38.3 deaths per thousand live births, and the average in New Mexico was 100.8 deaths per thousand, which was the highest in the nation. A paper that addresses this issue, was published by Tucker/Alvarez in 2019, titled Trinity: “The most significant hazard of the entire Manhattan Project”, which you can access here.
Since 1990 the US Government has been compensating “Downwinders” who lived adjacent to the Nevada Test Site. The fund set up to extend compensation and medical care is called the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). The Downwinders in New Mexico have never been included or compensated although they were the first people to be exposed to radiation any place in the world. New Mexicans were also downwind of the Nevada test site through the summer of 1962, well documented. The fund has paid out more than 2.3 billion dollars in claims and provides much needed health care coverage to some claimants. The health care coverage portion, if extended to the people of New Mexico, would save lives and reduce the financial burden to patients and families as they travel from their rural communities to receive treatment. The TBDC is fighting for the same compensation that other Downwinders receive, and for the health care coverage to be extended to all Downwinders.
We often say we don’t want one dime more or one dime less than what other Downwinders are receiving and have received for over 30 years. From the beginning, and to date, THEY continue to pursue our purpose to this dedicated cause.
Advocacy on the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019, which would expand eligibility to include New Mexican Downwinders: S.947/H.R.3783.
Pursuing a grant to complete additional health assessments of New Mexican communities affected by nuclear testing.
Educational work in the community and nationally about the health effects of nuclear testing in the Southwest US on New Mexico, including national media work.
Securing funding to complete a qualitative Health Impact Assessment to research the impact that an amended RECA would have on the public health of New Mexicans.
Collecting roughly 1200 health surveys from Tularosa Basin “Downwinders,” documenting health consequences from testing.
Successfully lobbying for a Senate hearing in 2018 on RECA expansion legislation.
Working with members of Congress to improve language in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019 to include more equitable eligibility requirements.
Organizing a speaker tour in 2019 with Dr. Joseph Shonka author of “Trinity: The First Dirty Bomb,” who has written about the catastrophic health impacts of the Trinity Nuclear Test in 1945.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR COLLABORATION
Lobbying and other advocacy support for RECA expansion, including support in developing a comprehensive national lobbying strategy.
Developing curriculum for local schools to teach the history and consequences of nuclear testing in New Mexico.
Research to collect and test water and soil samples in exposed areas. The US government collected samples decades ago, but has never publicly released results of these tests.
Raising awareness and educating the public about the work of Dr. Shonka (above), to oppose the false narrative spread by the US government that the Trinity test did not harm local Downwind communities.
TBDC is interested in completing a FOIA request to learn more about the results of early government testing of soil and water samples near the Trinity Test Site.