SALT LAKE CITY – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has halted funding for a study on the connection between radioactive fallout and thyroid disease among people living downwind of aboveground atomic bomb tests in Nevada during the 1950s and early 1960s.
The study, which already had cost $8 million, has re-examined about 1,300 former students who lived in southwestern Utah and eastern Nevada, plus a control group of Arizona residents for comparison.
“CDC does not have the financial resources available to continue the project,” said agency spokesman John Florence. “It’s a funding issue.”
The head of the study, Dr. Joseph L. Lyon, a University of Utah researcher who has been studying the fallout issue for decades, was told of the CDC decision in a March 21 letter from Michael A. McGeehin, director of the CDC Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects.
Previous studies have produced conflicting conclusions on how the more than 900 atomic weapons tests affected people living downwind in Nevada, Utah and Arizona.
In studies that began in the 1960s, federal researchers concluded that fallout had not increased disease, but Lyon’s studies, beginning in 1977, concluded that fallout did cause increased incidence of cancer.
In 1993, a new study by Lyon and colleagues found that, among children exposed to the highest doses, radiation from the detonations increased the incidence of thyroid tumors more than three times.
Lyon said he feels the federal government does not want to know about health effects of fallout on American citizens. “That’s the only interpretation I can place on it,” he said.