Children's disabilities blamed on Tennessee nuclear
One case in a sea of thousands
retarded used in U.S.-backed radiation experiments
P. Casey Daley / The Nashville Tennessean
A Photo of Susie and Scott Woods, show them wondering if
the Oak Ridge nuclear reservation caused their son Alex, 3, to have the
body and mind of a youth half his age.
By Susan Thomas, Laura Frank and Anne Paine /The Nashville Tennessean
OAK RIDGE, Tenn. -- The number of children's mental, physical
and learning disabilities are mushrooming downstream from the federal government's
giant Oak Ridge nuclear reservation.
While nobody has found a direct connection between the escalating number
of disabilities and the huge Oak Ridge complex, nobody has seriously looked
for one either.
But people who live nearby and see the disabilities have their suspicions
about poisons leaked into the environment from Oak Ridge, where nuclear
weapons parts were manufactured for the last quarter century.
In nearby Roane County, the school population has changed little since
1990, but an analysis of state records shows:
The number of kids with learning disabilities more than doubled from
the 1990 to 1996 school years.
"There just seems to be a tremendous increase in minimal brain dysfunction,"
says Robert J. McCracken, Roane County's director of special education
The number of kids with health-related disabilities jumped from eight
These disabilities range from leukemia to attention deficit disorder.
The number of kids with mental retardation rose at a rate four times
that of the state.
He does not know why. The numbers alone do not suggest a cause. And
experts say the numbers should be viewed with caution. But in the streets
and stores of Roane County communities, there is a sense something is wrong
with too many kids.
"As a parent, I am very concerned that the contamination coming from
the government plants could be causing the disabilities and other problems
the children are having," says Marcella Russell, 33, who volunteers as
a teacher's aide at Oliver Springs Elementary School, which her two children
attend. "I mean, you constantly hear about more and more children who live
around here who are having unexplained problems, so you can't help but
wonder if the plants may be hurting them."
The U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge reservation is a toxic tapestry
of some of the worst, longest-lasting poisons known.
In 1991, an incinerator on the reservation began burning radioactive,
toxic waste laced with cancer-causing PCBs, once widely used for electrical
insulation. A group of sick reservation workers complained the emissions
may be causing or contributing to their illnesses.
The Energy Department says the incinerator is safe. At the same time,
some people here wonder if the growing number of kids' disabilities could
reflect a more complex problem.
In addition, Roane County is downstream from two private companies
that began burning nuclear waste about the same time as the Oak Ridge incinerator.
For decades, several companies in Roane and neighboring Anderson County
have released toxic metals and chemicals. The Tennessee Valley Authority's
coal-burning power plants in each county, like other coal-fired plants,
also have emitted arsenic, mercury and radioactive particles for years.
Like the Energy Department, these facilities' operators say they emit
nothing at harmful levels. But some wonder if the poisons from the reservation
and these other sources are combining and accumulating in ways now proving
"What if we're dealing with multiple toxic substances here?" asks McCracken,
recently named Anderson County High School principal. He recalls sitting
in his old office at the Roane County schools administration building in
Kingston, overlooking the Clinch River downstream from these sources: "I
used to sit at my window and look at the stacks from the TVA plant, and
wonder where all these things are going? Who knows what happens when you
sprinkle in a little mercury and a little radiation? Nobody knows." Bruce
Hall Greenpeace Nuclear Disarmament Campaign. firstname.lastname@example.org
April 28, 1998 Doctor: Norwegians used in Cold War radiation experiments
BY: DOUG MELLGREN DATELINE: OSLO, Norway BODY: Norwegians deemed insane
or mentally retarded were used in U.S.-backed radiation experiments during
the Cold War, a retired top health official claimed Tuesday
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