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THE BIKINI ATTOL EXPERIMENT WITH RADIATION ON ITS PEOPLE

NUCLEAR RADIATION EXPERIMENT – PROJECT 4.1 MARSHALL ISLANDS

Project 4.1 was the designation for a medical study conducted by the United States of those residents of the Marshall Islands exposed to radioactive fallout from the March 1, 1954 Castle Bravo nuclear test at Bikini Atoll, which had an unexpectedly large yield. For the first 10 years or so after the test, the effects were ambiguous and statistically difficult to correlate in radiation exposure: Miscarriages and stillbirths among exposed Rongelap women doubled in the first five years after the accident, but then returned to normal; some developmental difficulties and impaired growth appeared in children, but in no clear-cut pattern. In the decades that followed, though, the effects were undeniable. Children began to suffer disproportionately from thyroid cancer (due to exposure to radioiodines), and almost a third of those exposed developed neoplasms by 1974.

As a Department of Energy Committee writing on the human radiation experiments wrote, “It appears to have been almost immediately apparent to the AEC and the Joint Task Force running the Castle series that research on radiation effects could be done in conjunction with the medical treatment of the exposed populations.” The Department of Energy report also concluded that “The dual purpose of what is now a DOE medical program has led to a view by the Marshallese that they were being used as ‘guinea pigs’ in a possible ‘radiation experiment.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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