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August 4, 1989

Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy

Author Affiliations

The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions Baltimore, Md

The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions Baltimore, Md


by Philip L. Fradkin, 300 pp, with illus, $24.95, Tucson, University of Arizona Press, 1989.

JAMA. 1989;262(5):699. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430050117040

More and more often, a judge is called upon to make decisions that should be made by the legislative or executive branches of government after consultation with scientists and other experts. This book is the story of a court case in Salt Lake City, Utah, that, on May 10, 1984, resulted in an award of $2.66 million in damages to eight persons with leukemia, one with thyroid cancer, and another with breast cancer.

The cancers were judged to have been caused by the radioactive fallout from the atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons in southern Nevada during the 1950s and early 1960s. The judge ruled that the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) had failed to warn the downwind citizens of the dangers from fallout so that they could take simple precautionary measures, such as staying indoors during the tests. The initial decision was reversed subsequently by the Court of Appeals on the