May 11, 2005

SENATORS INTRODUCE DOWNWINDER LEGISLATION

Bill would include Idaho under RECA

Washington, DC â?? Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Larry Craig today introduced legislation that would include all of Idaho under the existing federal government program to compensate those who can show medical evidence they were harmed by nuclear testing fallout in the 1950s and 1960s. The so-called downwinders are now compensated only in parts of Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, although studies show some Idaho counties received some of the highest doses of radioactive fallout from the Nevada tests.The legislation introduced today by the Senators amends the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to include Idaho. The RECA Act recognizes participants based on geography, but that may soon change. A recent report released by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommends that Congress change RECA to more accurately account for compensation so it is based on scientific standards and the medical history of applicants and not reliant on geographic designations.Senators Crapo and Craig recognize that change, but say in the meantime, Idahoans affected by the fallout need government help as soon as possible. They noted that some may not be able to wait for changes to RECA, and thus they want any Idahoans affected to be able to apply for compensation under the existing program while the new one is being framed.â??Information used to establish who would be eligible for compensation failed to recognize that four counties in Idaho ranked in the top five in having the highest per capita thyroid dosage of radiation in the nation, more than any county currently recognized by RECA for eligibility,â?? Crapo said in a statement for the Congressional Record. â??This clear inequity must be rectified; Idaho has a documented history of high cancer rates in people who lived in these areas during testing.â??"The National Academy of Sciences has confirmed that compensation under RECA should not be confined to the Act's current geographical borders,â?? said Craig. â??While the scientific standards are being updated to reflect the best available science, we must ensure that Idahoans are made eligible so that there will be no delay for those who qualify for compensation today."Crapo credited in his floor statement Idahoans involved in the effort to make the case for downwinders. He said former and present Emmett-area residents Sheri Garmon, Idaho Representative Kathy Skippen, and Tona Henderson as leaders who have fought for compensation on behalf of all Idaho victims of nuclear fallout. While introducing the RECA legislation, Idahoâ??s Senators will also continue to make program more comprehensive for future applicants.# # #