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National Downwinders Day Vigil for Idaho Victims

January 27, 2012

BOISE, Idaho - The National Day of Remembrance for America's Downwinders is being marked in Idaho this morning with a candlelight vigil in Boise.

"Downwinders" are people who were exposed to radioactive fallout from government nuclear-weapons testing in Nevada - fallout that fell hard on Idaho, especially the Emmett area.

Liz Woodruff, executive director of the Snake River Alliance, is coordinating the event.

"It's really important for people to remember and hold the federal government accountable for taking care of the effects of that, for the people who were hurt by it - and saying, 'never again.' "

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was passed in 1990 but was limited to residents in parts of Arizona, Nevada and Utah. Even though Idaho's congressional delegation has attempted over the years to extend coverage to Idaho, Woodruff says, the idea has been shot down.

"In spite of the fact that people that got cancers and other diseases from the weapons tests were in Idaho. Some of the highest concentrations were in Idaho."

The U.S. Senate declared Jan. 27 as Downwinders Day. Today is the 61st anniversary of the first above-ground nuclear weapons test. Weapons were tested at the Nevada site until 1992, and the radioactivity released has been connected with thyroid cancer and other illnesses.

The vigil begins at 8 a.m. at the Boise Train Depot and moves to the Shangri-La Tea Room at 8:30.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID