Friday, October 23, 2009

Bad News For The Surviving Atomic Zygotes

This is gonna give the term "Boomers" a whole new meaning. Yesterday, at Politics Daily, there was posted a somber, sobering reminder for the first generation of Atomic Zygotes (among whom I am on the absolute FOREFRONT, in fact perhaps naming the cadre by my own conception, in Santa Fe, on or about July 16, 1945, the date of the Trinity blast, 135 miles south of my parents connubial doings, while my father was home on leave from the destroyer Navy in the Pacific; a little after he rejoined his ship, the war was over--but I digress):

Remember back in the "good old days," when the US, and the Soviets were practicing national, chest-thumping machismo and testing nukes in the atmosphere? Remember Strontium 90? Iodine 129? Caesium 137? They're Baaaaaack...:
Even with a half-century's hindsight, the U.S. government's willingness to risk the health of the nation's children seems somewhere between unfathomable and unconscionable.

Between 1951 and 1962, the Atomic Energy Commission detonated more than 100 nuclear bombs in the atmosphere over its Nevada Test Site, just 65 miles from Las Vegas. The radioactive fallout menaced not only the ranchers and the miners unlucky enough to live in that remote area of southern Nevada, but -- as a new study unveiled Tuesday demonstrated -- untold millions of unsuspecting Americans as well.

The winds carried Strontium-90, Iodine-129 and other lethal particles across a broad swath of the country. Infants who were bottle-fed, which was then considered the modern approach, were particularly vulnerable to the Strontium-90 that ended up in cows' milk.

In 1961, as John Kennedy was poised to resume atmospheric testing after a two-year moratorium, he met with White House science adviser Jerome Wiesner in the Oval Office one rainy day. The president wondered how fallout reached the earth. Wiesner explained that it was washed out of the clouds by rain. "You mean," Kennedy asked, "it's in the rain out there?" As Wiesner tells it, the president then "looked out the window, looked very sad and didn't say a word for several minutes." Nonetheless JFK, fearful that the Soviet Union might score a nuclear breakthrough, authorized a new round of above-ground testing before negotiating the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. (N.B. The Soviets exploded nearly equal numbers of tests in Siberia, where the prevailing winds swept the debris westerly into Alaska and the west coast of the USofA. --W)

With Nov. 9, 2009 marking the 20th anniversary of the breaching of the Berlin Wall, Cold War retrospectives are again in season. But the grim legacy of nuclear testing is apt to be lost amid the memories of Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, the Berlin airlift, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Ronald Reagan's famed exhortation at the Brandenburg Gate. The mushroom clouds over the Nevada desert seem so long ago, so devoid of any real-world consequences.

But a study released Tuesday documents the enhanced cancer risk that Baby Boomers face because of these long-ago atmospheric tests. Epidemiologist Joseph Mangano analyzed the lingering radiation in infant teeth (donated long ago by the parents of baby boys born in the St. Louis area between 1959 and 1961) and compared the results to contemporary cancer data from the subjects. "What we found out was shocking," Mangano said. "Persons who had died of cancer had more than double the Strontium-90 in their (baby) teeth than did healthy persons." The original variance in Strontium-90 levels among individuals, he explained, was caused by seemingly small factors such as how much milk expectant mothers drank, diet and the source of the municipal water supply.

So where did these teeth come from? In the late 1950s, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis collected teeth from about 300,000 children and chemically analyzed them to demonstrate the prevalence of nuclear fallout. Even though it contributed to public support for the Test Ban Treaty, the Washington University study had been all but forgotten. But in 2001 a biology professor at the university discovered 85,000 left-over teeth in tiny manila envelopes that had never been used in this Cold War research.

The 53-year-old Mangano, the executive director of the small anti-nuclear Radiation and Public Health Project, saw the potential to use these teeth to conduct a longitudinal study measuring the life-long effects from atmospheric testing. For reasons of simplicity and consistency, he initially limited himself to boys born during a two-year moratorium in testing (so only lingering fallout was measured) who had not been breast-fed. "This is the pay dirt right here," he said excitedly Tuesday. "All the 50 years of collecting teeth, discussing bombs tests and all, this is the payoff. The difference is statistically significant." Mangano's paper, which is slated to posted Wednesday on his organization's Web site, has been submitted to an academic journal where it will be subjected to peer review.
Hooray! The Null Hypothesis has been rejected! Statistical significance is the Grail of soi-disant 'empirical' research--number crunching. We have significance! Everyone and everything anywhere in the world since 1945 carries the poisonous traces of these hideous "experiments" ("My mushroom cloud is bigger than yours. Nyanyah!").

So, while the news would extol the successes of the latest "tests," we did weekly 'civil defense drills.' I still recall those horriffic moments in school when we--six- and seven- and eight-year-olds--desperately grabbed for the thickest book we could lift and dove under our desks and, down on all fours, with our tiny, quaking, puckered little asses tilted heavenward, we covered our heads with those books, to ward off the imminent nuclear blast.

Literally giving our sweet, young, virgin asses to GAWD!

But it was later, when it rained, that it literally rained death and destruction, especially if you were downwind--though eventually it didn't matter where you were.


  1. holy shit!...I remember crawling under the desks and covering our heads with our Indian Chief notebooks...when I told my daddy what we did, he laughed and said did they tell you while you were down there to kiss your ass good bye?

  2. Hey libul freeman here
    wanted to thank you for providing a dose of reality on think progress yesterday . The Zoo types have degenerated into cheerleaders , keep spilling their cool aid.
    Great blog by the way , i'll be back .

  3. I have no recollection of ever taking part in these under-the-desk drills. Fire drills I remember, and recall at least talking about what to do in event of tornado--this was in s.e. Iowa the first year or two and eastern Illinois thereafter so earthquake was not something we practiced for. Elementary years were 1959-65 or so.

    But no memory of bomb practice. On a no doubt unrelated note I am an obsessive obituary reader. Am seeing more "premature" deaths, which I define as <70, in the last year or so than I ever remember in the 30+ years I've been reading them regularly.

    And with no mention of cause of death--no auto accident, murder, suicide or other neweworthy event noted. Rarely a "in lieu of flowers" mention of the Diabetes Assn. or some other specific ailment presumably relevant to the question. Most often just "Random Name, 56, died Tuesday at Provena Hospital..." or at home.

    just thought I'd mention this. Most likely totally unrelated. And suicide is almost never mentioned in an obit anyway.


  4. I think our generation will NOT, in the aggregate, outlive our parents' life-spans.

    We grew up and developed AWASH in the toxins and the poisons, and the radiation, and the pollution, of the age of chemistry...

    And our children--for those who have 'em--likely won't fare any better than we, since evolution is a long-term project...