1959. Fallout: The silent killer.

Saturday Evening Post, August 29th, 1959/

In December I wrote a blog post about above the ground nuclear testing that had been common practice by the nuclear powers – the United States and the Soviet Union – when I was growing up in Los Angeles in the 50s and 60s.

The entire globe was subject to nuclear fallout, but the U.S. testing grounds were just 300 miles north of Los Angeles.

I think about this lately since in November I had a kidney removed that had a cancerous tumor. As with many cancers, there is a chance of reoccurrence.

My mother died from Hodgkins lymphoma in 1977 after a 12 year battle.

The federal government has little interest in investigating or releasing information about the effects of above ground testing, fallout or Strontium 90 on the environment and on our health.

But a 1959 article in the Saturday Evening Post provides some interesting information from the time period when nuclear testing was commonplace and “drop drills” is schools were a monthly routine.

At exactly 12:30 Greenwich civil time every day in the year, 169 men in 169 cities around the globe perform a simple chore of world-wide importance. Each steps out onto a roof or into a yard, removes a one-foot square of sticky cellophane from an exposed wooden frame, clips a fresh sheet into place with spring clothespins, folds the old piece into a brown envelope and mails it to an address on Columbus Avenue in New York City.

Here in the health and Safety Laboratory of the United States Energy Commission the bits of gummed film, with their twenty-four hour catch from an increasingly polluted sky, are analyzed from some thirty other sampling systems to make up the atomic weather report.

No matter how you read it the report is not good. For it concerns the clouds of radioactive particles, invisible but potentially harmful and even lethal, which have been blown into the air by the explosion of nuclear bombs and which drift back down upon us a fallout. Just how bad the report is depends on who is interpreting it, and some say no weather report since the one given to Noah has carried foreboding for the human race. Certainly man has seldom faced an issue so troublesome.

The pervasive by-product of weapons testing now blankets the entire earth. In contaminates the air, the sea and the soil. It lies twice as thick over the Northern Hemisphere as the Southern, and is more heavily concentrated in the United States than anywhere else on the earth’s surface. and every living creature, man included, has in its body a few particles of radioactive strontium 90, some of which will remain for life.

4 thoughts on “1959. Fallout: The silent killer.

  1. As a young child duirng the early 1960s, I remember all the talk about Strontium-90 and its disturbing levels in cow and human milk. An image of a woman’s breast with a big X on it warning mothers not to breast-feed their babies sticks in my mind (from Look or Life Magazine?). I am not sure I saw such an image or invented it in my own mind, but I remember being scared and paranoid about the “hidden killer” that was all around us. Later, wehn I was in college, I remember reading a book by someone involved in radioactive research explain how there is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation. Any dose is cummulative in its effects (by causing DNA mutations) and raises the probability of cancer.

  2. Hi Fred, BTW, I had asked you some years ago about what program you used to make those wonderful illustrations you often use in your posts. You told me, but I can’t find where I wrote it down. Sorry, but could you tell me again what program you use to make those illustrations? Thanks, Gary

    1. I’m not sure, Gary, which illustrations you mean. I pull photos from all places on the internet. As for my own drawings, I draw them. Sometimes using various drawing software and sometimes using pen and paper.

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