The role of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the study assessing the public health impacts of exposure of the American people to fallout from atomic bomb tests detonated at the Nevada Test Site in the l950s was the focus of a recent congressional investigation.This investigation also assessed the NCI’s role in management of three studies of Chernobyl exposed populations. The congressional investigation found:
I. Researchers at the NCI substantially delayed the release of the Nevada Test Site fallout report, despite data that showed that significant numbers of children across the nation received doses of radiation that were much higher and posed greater health risks than previously believed.2
II. The NCI neither involved the public in its Nevada Test Site bomb test fallout study nor adequately responded to governmental requests for information developed through the study.3
III. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the NCI management performed little oversight or tracking of the project. As a result, they failed to ensure that the report was completed in a timely fashion and that important issues were addressed in an open manner.4
IV. The NCI Nevada Test Site fallout report does not meaningfully inform the American public of the impacts of the radioactive fallout from the weapons testing program.5
V. The management failures of the I-131 study have been repeated in a NCI-led international effort to study the effects of radioiodine releases on thyroid cancer in the areas surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. 6[As a result of these and other factors, it is uncertain whether the Chernobyl studies will be able to locate and screen those intended to participate, depriving these people the benefits of medical screening and the study, of its subjects so essential to meaningful results from these studies on the causal link between I-131 exposure and thyroid disease and cancer- Ed.].
This congressional investigation on the NCI’s role in management of both the NTS fallout study and the three Chernobyl exposure studies raise some serious concerns with regard to openness and management by the NCI. These studies have been jeopardized by mismanagement within NCI.
As a person significantly exposed to environmental radiation emissions from the both NTS fallout and a Department of Energy nuclear weapons facility during the l950s, I applaud this comprehensive congressional investigation into the past management by NCI of radiation exposure studies.
It is my sincere hope that this excellent and comprehensive analysis will result in significant restructuring of management within NCI within these contexts, and adherence to a consistent policy of openness and public involvement on the part of all federal agencies involved in assessment of public health impacts of environmental radiation exposure.