Clinic seeks to help downwinders learn about federal compensation before it expires

ST. GEORGE — With a federal program compensating those exposed to radiation while living downwind of nuclear tests during the Cold War set to expire next year, the “downwinder” clinic in St. George is holding public meetings in parts of southwest Utah to help affected people learn how they may apply for the program before it expires in July 2022.

Public domain image from Operation Buster-Jangle – Dog test, Nevada, Nov. 1, 1951 | St. George News

The RESEP (Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program) clinic at  St. George Regional Hospital announced it will be holding meetings in Washington, Iron and Beaver counties to help individuals – also known as downwinders – learn how to access assistance from the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.

The public meetings will run from Oct. 19-21.

“The term downwinder is used to describe the more than 60,000 people who were exposed to radioactive fallout in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah during the nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950’s and 1962,” Intermountain Healthcare stated in a press release announcing the meetings.

Exposure to the fallout is blamed for causing the development of various cancers in individuals who were alive during the specified time period.

According to Intermountain Healthcare, downwinder-related illnesses include: leukemia, multiple myeloma, lymphomas, other than Hodgkin’s diseases, as well as cancers of the pharynx, small intestine, salivary gland, brain, stomach, urinary bladder, colon, thyroid, pancreas, female or male breast, esophagus, bile ducts, liver, gall bladder, lung and ovary.

Those who qualify for downwinder compensation are eligible to received $50,000 through the RECA program.

Experts will be on hand at the meetings to answer questions about the program and its requirements, including compensation and the program’s scheduled expiration. Information will be available for anyone who qualifies and assistance provided to start the compensation process.

Times and places

Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021 Enterprise City Office, 375 S. 200 East 4-5 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 Parowan Public Library, 16 S. Main St. 4-5 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 Cedar City Public Library, 303 N. 100 East 7-8 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 Beaver City Office, 30 W. 300 North 3-4 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 Minersville Public Library, 40 W. Main St. 6-7 p.m.

All local residents are welcome to attend. For questions please call 435-251-4760.

Social distancing will be followed and attendees are asked to wear face masks, which will also be available onsite.

A diagram showing the amount of radiation received in Utah from above-ground nuclear bomb tests at the Nevada Test site | Photo courtesy of the University of Utah, St. George News | Click to enlarge

While downwinders are a primary focus of the meetings, others covered under the RECA program include those who worked at the Nevada Test Site itself through 1963, and those who worked in uranium mines from 1942 to 1971. They are are eligible for $75,000 and $100,000 respectively.

In addition to compensation, the RECA program also funds local health centers and nonprofit organizations to conduct cancer screenings and support individuals in filing RECA claims, such as the the St. George Regional Hospital.

Efforts are underway to get Congress to extend the program for another two decades while expanding the umbrella of who can qualify for compensation under the RECA. The proposed renewal of the program would also see compensation risen to $150,000 for all claimants.

Among the co-sponsors of legislation to extend and expand the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act are Utah Republican Reps. Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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