Trisha T. Pritikin’s powerful book, The Hanford Plaintiffs, tells a quintessential American story. A rural community in Washington state is among the first to experience the terrifying consequences of the nuclear age. Beginning in the 1940s, locals began to take notice of strange and unexplainable happenings. Without warning, people began to suffer more frequent nose bleeds, and headaches, muscular weakness and sore throats, thyroid conditions, leukemia, and numerous other sicknesses. New moms suffered miscarriages, and neonatal deaths. More people were dying from heart attacks, and various forms of cancer. In their farmlands, they observed lambs born weakened with terrible deformities, sheep and cattle dying.

Why was all this happening? What they didn’t know was that a nearby facility producing plutonium for the atomic bomb, was releasing radioactive wastes into the wind, and the water of the Columbia River.

In a futile effort over many decades, they tried to tell their stories, but were denied justice, by court indifference, interminable bureaucratic delay, and lies by the US government. Now, decades later, through the unrelenting efforts of Pritikin and her colleagues, twenty-four of the Hanford Plaintiffs at last tell their stories, told in their own words, that serve as a stark warning to our world: this can happen to you.

Frank C. Bognar, D.P.A. is Chair of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.