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Jury Rejects Linking Emissions to Cancer

An Idaho woman was one of thousands who claimed the Hanford complex made them ill.

November 24, 2005|From Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. — A federal jury on Wednesday rejected an Idaho woman's claim that Cold War emissions from the Hanford nuclear weapons complex caused her thyroid cancer.

The case was one of the first to go to trial out of thousands of claims against contractors that operated Hanford, which produced plutonium for nuclear weapons, including the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb during World War II.

Shannon Rhodes' lawyer, Richard Eymann, said she was "devastated" by the verdict, which came six months after another jury deadlocked.

Rhodes, 64, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, was one of six cases thought to be representative of more than 2,000 people who said their health was damaged by Hanford releases.

In May, a federal jury ruled in favor of two of the plaintiffs and awarded them about $545,000, far less than it cost to bring the case to trial. It rejected three plaintiffs' claims and split in Rhodes' case.

Kevin Van Wart, a lawyer for former Hanford contractors General Electric Co., the DuPont Co. and UNC Nuclear Inc., said the verdict showed that claims of health damage from small doses of radioactive iodine were unfounded.

"We continue to extend our sympathies to Mrs. Rhodes. We congratulate the jury for being able to separate a very natural sympathy ... from the question of causation," Van Wart said.

The plaintiffs are known as Hanford "downwinders" because many lived in areas downwind from radioactive and chemical releases.

Downwinders did not find out about the releases until the government declassified the information in 1986. Most of the releases involved the radioactive iodine-131, which has been linked to diseases of the thyroid.

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