Radiation Survivors

StoryNovember 21, 1997
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Arguably one of the most dramatic moments of the Clinton administration’s first term was when Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary revealed that the US government conducted radiation experiments on hundreds of thousands of unwitting subjects for more than 40 years. The experiments included everything from injecting plutonium directly into people, to exposing soldiers to nuclear blasts.

The largest program involved radium implants. Long thin tubes with radium at the tip would be implanted in the back of the nasal passages. During World War II, 17,000 servicemen received the implants, ostensibly to alleviate pain caused by rapid pressure changes. After the war, and right up through the mid 1960s, between 500,000 and 2.5 million children were also given radium implants.


  • Jeffrey Sea, a health physicist and director of the Atomic Reclamation and Conversion Project, a non-profit group that provides research, education and organizing services to radiation survivor community. He is also an activist on issues related to the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan. Send email to


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