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ENVIRONMENT REPORT — March 15, 2002: Nuclear Pollution and Cancer - 2002-03-14

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

A recent report by the USA Today newspaper says that a large amount of nuclear pollution has caused thousands of deaths in the United States. The radioactive material was spread by tests of nuclear weapons carried out during the Nineteen-Fifties and early Nineteen-Sixties.

The news report is based on a study done by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute. However, the Department of Health and Human Services has not released the study to the public. The study says that a larger area than expected received high levels of nuclear pollution.

The study used computer models to find out where nuclear pollution may have fallen. The study says all people living in the United States since Nineteen-Fifty-One have received some level of radiation. It says people in the most affected areas received radiation equal to one medical x-ray every year.

Beginning in the Nineteen-Fifties, the American military carried out more than two-hundred tests of nuclear weapons. About half of those tests were done in the state of Nevada. During the same period, the former Soviet Union carried out a similar number of tests on its own territory. Britain and the United States carried out other nuclear tests on islands in the Pacific Ocean. The study says that these tests also spread radioactive material in America. The United States halted above-ground nuclear tests in Nineteen-Sixty-Three.

The study also estimates that at least eleven-thousand Americans may have died of cancer as a result of nuclear pollution. It says thousands of other people developed non-deadly forms of cancer.

Yet, some medical experts say that it is very difficult to point to a single cause for many kinds of cancer. They also say the number of deaths caused by radiation is small when compared to the number of people who have died from other causes, such as smoking.

However, experts say nuclear pollution is an environmental problem that can last a long time because of the nature of radiation. Some radioactive material remains dangerous for only a few years. But other material is dangerous for much longer periods.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Mario Ritter.