Congressman Jim Matheson says thousands of victims of exposure to radioactive fallout from nuclear bomb tests will be helped under proposed legislation to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). Matheson is an original cosponsor of the House bill to be introduced this week. New Mexico Senator Tom Udall is introducing a companion bill in the Senate.
"Evidence compiled over the last 14 years points to the likelihood that there are even more victims in Utah and other states than are already acknowledged under current law," said Matheson. "This bill builds upon RECA by expanding and equalizing compensation to 'downwinders', uranium miners, millers and ore haulers whose health was sacrificed in the rush to build bombs and win the Cold War."
Several years ago, Matheson requested that the Special investigations Division of the House Committee on Government Reform examine new information about cancer rates in Utah. The information, which was compiled by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), includes data on rates of radiation-associated cancers--by county--in Utah from 1973-2001. That report concluded that for the 30-year period NCI has tracked cancer rates, there was an 8 percent higher rate of radiation-associated cancers in areas where residents cannot currently receive compensation than in the eligible counties.
Matheson said that under current law, residents of 10 Utah counties, who suffer from 18 types of radiation-associated cancer, are eligible to apply for payments, usually in the amount of $50,000. NCI released major reports in 1997 and 2001, finding evidence of radiation exposure across all of Utah, with the distribution of fallout largely unrelated to RECA's established parameters.
Matheson said HR 1490 -- the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) Amendments of 2011 proposes the following:
* Make all claimants available for equal amount of compensation--specifically $150,000--regardless of whether they are milers, miners, ore transporters, onsite employees or downwinders.
* Expand the downwind areas to include all of Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Utah for the Nevada Test Site; New Mexico for the "Trinity" Test Site; and Guam for the Pacific tests.
* Make all claimants eligible for medical benefits. Currently, only miners, millers and ore transporters can claim medical benefits through the medical expense compensation program.
* To add renal cancer or any other chronic renal disease to the list of compensable disease for employees of mines and mills. Currently, millers and transporters are covered for kidney disease, but miners are not.
* Authorize $3 million for five years for epidemiological research on the impacts of uranium development on communities and families of uranium workers. The funds would be allocated to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to award grants to universities and non-profits to carry out the research