Radiation and Public Health Publications
U.S.A. Newborn Deterioration in the Nuclear Age, 1945-1996
The New England States: The states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island show relatively less of a gap between the observed and expected infant mortality rates during the bomb-test years than did Massachusetts and Connecticut. But all the New England states show an encouraging convergence between observed and expected rates in the most recent years. In fact, because of the pressures of deregulation of electricity rates, for most of the year 1996 all New England reactors were closed. Such pressures may persist in the immediate future, offering the promise of immediate drops in observed infant mortality rates and in the percentage of low birth weights.
Middle Atlantic States: The gap between observed and expected rates remains significantly large in New York and New Jersey; less so in Pennsylvania.
East North Central States: For Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, the gap remains significantly large, although by 1996 all states have achieved rates below 10 per 1000 live births.
West North Central States: A similar pattern characterizes the states of Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri, although there appears to be an encouraging narrowing of the gap between observed and expected rates for the Dakotas and Nebraska.
South Atlantic States: With the exception of West Virginia, observed infant mortality rates remain well above the expected rates, although convergence has been finally achieved for Florida.
East and West Central States: With the exception of Kentucky, observed rates exceed expected rates in the remaining seven states, but convergence is finally achieved in Mississippi and Texas.
Mountain States: Except for New Mexico and Nevada, as previously discussed, proximity to the Nevada Test site accounts for the bulk of the observed postwar excess in infant mortality rates in the remaining six Mountain states.
Pacific States: Back data are not available for Alaska, but for Hawaii data are available as far back as 1935. The excess of observed over expected infant mortality rates begins as early as 1945 as a result of the releases from Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the postwar tests in the South Pacific, prior to the shift to the Nevada Test site in 1951. For the remaining Pacific states of Washington, Oregon and California, although somewhat shielded by the Rocky Mountains from Nevada test-site releases, large excesses in infant mortality characterize the second half of the 20th century as shown in every other state.
In the future, all states will be faced with the additional enormous problem of dealing with the high-level radioactive wastes generated by each reactor, now stored in refrigerated pools at each reactor site. But proposed attempts to move these wastes to the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada, in order to permit continued reactor operation, would introduce many additional accidents. Such accidents would continue the tragic history of the past half century by once again exposing the population to further radiation, thus leading to another increase in infant mortality, low birthweight babies, and other adverse health effects.