The Radiation Legacy of WWII

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Radiation is a part of American life.  Everyone gets some.  A few “lucky” ones get a lot  more.

North St. Louis County, Missouri, is peppered with sites identified by the US Army Corp of Engineers as radioactive.  It’s the legacy of uranium processing for nuclear arms programs in World War II.  Uranium waste was dumped into a landfill near the St. Louis airport (Lambert Field).  However, the area is subject to flooding by Coldwater Creek, and that has spread radioactive material to parks and yards across North County.

The result: North County has been turned into a cancer hotspot, and shown in the map below.  Some of the cancers seen in this area are extraordinarily cancer_cases_1242rare.

Coldwater Creek drains into the Missouri River above the juncture with the Mississippi River, and just above the intake for drinking water for the City of St. Louis.

There have been a number of law suits file over the last 6 years, with some thrown out by various judges and some still active.

OK, that’s known, at least to local residents.  Whether it has had an impact on tourism or on convention traffic isn’t known.

However, St. Louis was only one processing center,  There were five others:

  • Tanawanda, New York (on the Niagara River upstream from Niagara Falls)
  • Deepwater, New Jersey (on the Delaware River across from Wilmington, Delaware)
  • Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (south of Pittsburgh)
  • Oak Ridge, Tennessee (near Knoxville)
  • Cleveland, Ohio (on Lake Erie)

There are radiation issues in all of these communities.  In many cases, the coverage is old enough that current residents may not even be aware of the problem.  A 2006 article labeled Canonsburg as “the most radioactive town in America.”

That said, some level of radioactivity exists in all areas of the US.  The map below is from a civilian volunteer monitoring program (the Radiation Network).  Unfortunately, none of the civilian volunteers appear to be focusing on historical problem sites.

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Take-aways

Knowledge is safety.  The more you know about where you live and where your kids play, the better you can try to protect yourself and them.


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