Greg Stanton pushes bill to help downwinders in Arizona as ‘Oppenheimer’ hits box office

Jul 22, 2023, 8:00 PM

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)...

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Representative Greg Stanton vowed to renew his efforts to bring justice to Arizona’s forgotten downwinders on Thursday.

He said victims of cancerous radiation in Arizona as a result of nuclear testing have gone without compensation for far too long.

“Time is running out for these Americans,” Stanton said in a statement. “It’s long past time for the federal government to take responsibility for its actions.”

Stanton timed his statement one day before the highly anticipated release of “Oppenheimer,” a film about the creation of the atomic bomb during World War II.

“The premiere of this movie brings up painful memories for hundreds of Arizona families who lost loved ones to radiation illnesses,” Stanton said.

Who are the downwinders?

During the Cold War era from 1945 to 1962, the government tested over 200 nuclear weapons. Downwinders are people exposed to radiation during that period.

“There’s a higher tendency among downwinders to develop certain cancers including leukemia, multiple myeloma, lymphomas and many more,” Stanton said.

Congress compensated many downwinders through the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, known as RECA for short.

“Unfortunately, that bill included serious boundary flaws,” Stanton said.

That means many eligible downwinders in Arizona haven’t gotten government cash to help them with their medical treatments.

“Americans that reside in counties in close proximity to where the testing occurred are excluded from this program for no logical scientific reason, specifically residents in Mohave County, Arizona and Clark County, Nevada,” Stanton’s statement said.

According to a 1997 study from the National Cancer Institute, the lower Mohave and Clark counties have higher rates of radiation exposure than other areas the bill covers.

What is Stanton’s plan?

Stanton said he wants to update the RECA bill to include all of the Mohave and Clark counties in its affected areas. He plans to do this through H.R. 4754, the downwinders Parity Act of 2023.

Stanton’s Thursday announcement cited box office estimates that predict “Oppenheimer” will bring in $50 million through Sunday.

“[That’s] the exact amount the Congressional Budget Office estimates expanding eligibility would cost,” according to Stanton’s news release.

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Greg Stanton pushes bill to help downwinders in Arizona as ‘Oppenheimer’ hits box office