Excessive deaths from cancers of the kidney, bladder, blood and lymphatic system were also observed, although the lung-cancer numbers were the most startling. “While we believe that something is going on with this group of workers, we don’t know for certain what caused the excessive cancer deaths,” said Beate Ritz, a UCLA epidemiologist and co-investigator on the study, in LA Weekly. “Our best information is that it was hydrazine, but it could be something else related to rocket-engine testing. We do know there is an excessive number of cancer deaths among workers in the high-exposure category.”
A five-year study commissioned by the state legislature announced its results in October 2006 detailing the probable cancers caused by the partial meltdown of just one of the experimental reactors that had serious accidents in Area IV, the Sodium Reactor Experiment. The 1959 meltdown likely caused cancer in 260 to 1,800 people within a 62-mile radius of the eastern Ventura County lab hard on the border with Los Angeles County. The $200,000 report released figures for escaping radionuclides that show that the disaster released 459 times more of the deadly radionuclides iodine-131 and cesium-137 than Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island meltdown did in 1979, according to a Los Angeles CityBeat article.
News of offsite illnesses appears to be worse with the release of the November 2012 Public Health Institute’s California Breast Cancer Mapping Project (7.95 MB) which showed that women in east Ventura County have the highest rate of breast cancer than almost all other areas of California. Western Los Angeles County and Simi Valley are one of four California regions that have a 10 to 20 percent higher invasive breast cancer rate than the rest of the state.
Though the study makes no mention of SSFL as a possible cause, the rate of breast cancers in this region, with Rocketdyne right in the center of it, has been consistently higher than the rest of California for the last nine years. Non-Hispanic white women are affected the most with 73 percent of the cases. Hispanic women accounted for 12 percent of the total and 8 percent Asian females. The American Cancer Society says that ionizing radiation causes breast cancer.
These numbers are easier to understand than complicated calculations for contaminants that cause a world of hurt in only the way the Pandora’s Box of pollutants used at the lab can do. Cleaning up to background and trying to right the situation, and not a blizzard of Boeing baloney about why it shouldn’t have to, is also a fairly simple and straight-foward concept.
The longtime residents fighting for cleanup, and the hundreds of community members who support them, know through their own battles with cancer what it means to live next to the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. For over two decades, they fought to clean the place up so it couldn’t harm future generations. They thought that the government and responsible parties had finally delivered them from this nightmare in 2010.
They were dead wrong.
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