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January 9, 1987

Before Chernobyl: Hanford, Savannah River, and Rocky Flats

Author Affiliations

South Dakota Department of Health Pierre, SD

South Dakota Department of Health Pierre, SD

JAMA. 1987;257(2):191. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390020057025

To the Editor.—  In a commentary on Chernobyl, a hypothetical scenario is described by Dr Cassel: "Had an accident and radiation release of similar magnitude occurred at Hanford [Wash], the milk in Madison, Wis, would have been taken off the market because of unacceptable levels of radioactive iodine 131".1 She further elaborates that farmers in Nebraska would be forced to discard their vegetables because of high radioactive contamination. Couples in Iowa would have been advised not to conceive babies for several weeks, parents with children would have left Spokane, Wash, because of increased radiation levels, and 500 000 people at an open-air festival in Chicago would have been drenched by radioactive rain-water. It is stated that "all these things occurred in places in Europe at comparable distances from the Chernobyl accident."In fact, a release of iodine 131 of great magnitude did occur at Hanford in 1945. An estimated