Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Effects From Nuclear Fallout

September 11, 1993

* I applaud you for "A Hidden Holocaust" (July 18), about nuclear fallout in the U.S.

During May, 1953, my husband, Luis de Herrera, and I were visiting Zion Canyon National Park in Utah. It was a lovely spring morning as we exited the park, thrilled by the beauty we had experienced. Shortly after passing through the town of St. George we were stopped by three Army corporals. "What are you doing on this road?" they asked. "Don't you know there was an atomic bomb set off?" We knew nothing about it, as there was no radio reception in the canyon.

Explaining what a Geiger counter was, one of the corporals tested my shoes. I asked, "What does it mean when that needle goes all the way to the top?" "It means you are hot, lady." At first I thought it was amusing, until my husband questioned the men about the danger of radioactivity. We were sent to a decontamination center where our car was washed and tested six times. It was pronounced "the hottest car of the day." We were then advised, "Wash your bodies and hair with this soap, and send your clothes to the cleaners. Also, it would be a good idea to check in with a doctor in about six months."

Nineteen months later, my husband, 45 years old and previously in robust health (he had been the amateur golf champion of most of the countries in South America) came down with acute leukemia and died 10 days later. My family and I did not sue the U.S. government for negligence, as we felt it was doing something important for U.S. defense. Years later we found out the Defense Department knew a lot about the danger of low-radiation fallout and were callous in its attitude toward potential public health hazards.

In my recently published book, "Beyond Gurus," I tell of my search for answers to justify what happened to us. President Clinton has recently signed a six-month moratorium on testing, but that is not enough. Until humankind learns how to cope with nuclear waste, all testing should stop. Time is running out.

NANCY COOKE DE HERRERA

Beverly Hills

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|