Ted Simons: They are called downwinders, people affected by fallout by nuclear testing in Southern Nevada during the 1950's and early 60's. It’s an increasing concern among those who lived in Northern Arizona at the time. Including Sherrie Hanna, whose husband John Hanna Jr of Prescott died this past October of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Sherrie Hanna joins us now to discuss the issue of downwinders in Arizona. Thank you so much for making a trip down here. It’s nice to see you.
Sherrie Hanna: Thank you.
Ted Simons: I know this is very important topic to you. Again, downwinders are folks who live downwind from nuclear testing. Correct?
Sherrie Hanna: Yes, from the test site in Nevada, the Nevada desert, the government determined because of the weather and wind patterns that were blowing during the time of the testing they determined the areas that were affected.
Ted Simons: And those areas include what parts of Northern Arizona?
Sherrie Hanna: The Arizona counties are Gila county, Apache, coconino, Navajo, Yavapai and Mohave, a portion of Mohave County.
Ted Simons: And these are the years 1950’s to what? Early 60’s?
Sherrie Hanna: Yes. Early 60-62. And there's a window there of also from June 30th 1962 until July 31st 1962.
Ted Simons: what kind of cancers now are considered possibly impacted by this fallout?
Sherrie Hanna: There are cancers 20 cancers that fall under the downwinder program. I can list them all but if you go on the Department of Justice website downwinders, it will list them for you. There are of 20 of them that are classified as the downwinders cancers.
Ted Simons: talk about your husband.
Sherrie Hanna: Yes. He was diagnosed in April of 2012 of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We suspected it was a downwinders cancer because my father passed away in 1983. He was also a downwinder. He passed away of esophageal cancer. That's when we became familiar with the downwinders program.
Ted Simons: The radiation exposure compensation act of 1990. Talk to us about that and how that impacts those who feel they may have been affected.
Sherrie Hanna: In 1990 Congress passed the radiation exposure compensation act and to date it has paid over $1.8 billion in compensation for the downwinders. There are compensation for the downwinders people that were in the path of the radiation fallout. It also encompasses on-site participants who worked at the nuclear site. Uranium miners that worked there and ORE transporters that also worked there. They receive a different compensation than the downwinders.
Ted Simons: survivors as well?
Sherrie Hanna: Yes, survivors can receive the compensation if the individual passed away from one of the cancers. You have to get one of the cancers. To receive compensation.
Ted Simons: do we know that the cancer rates for downwinders are higher than those who may not have been in the path?
Sherrie Hanna: They do know that and they also know that Mojave County, which is closest to the Nevada test site, has the highest rate of incident rate. It was closest to the nuclear site. Test site.
Ted Simons: when there are critics, and there are critics of everything out there, when they say you can't really know if a cancer has been caused by this, how do you respond to that?
Sherrie Hanna: I think the government has done a really good job of categorizing the cancers that they have come across and the fact that they have paid out so much in compensation I think speaks for itself.
Ted Simons: And your job now is -- what do you see your job as, get the information out?
Sherrie Hanna: Yes because there are so many people that were actually raised in these areas or had family members that were and have passed away, they have never heard of the program. They don't know what the downwinders is. Also if you are a downwinder the government has set up a free screening program and you can go for free cancer screenings once a year. This kind of keeps you ahead of anything that might show up through the tests.
Ted Simons: We have 15 seconds left. What's next for you?
Sherrie Hanna: My goal is to just keep speaking out about it to let people know about the screening process so they can get checked and early detection is your best protection.
Ted Simons: Alright, well good to have you here. Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. Thank you.
Sherrie Hanna: thank you for having me.
Ted Simons: that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.