Families seeking aid through Radiation Exposure Compensation Act
May 05, 2017 10:26 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The Los Alamos of the 1950s was far different than the city on the mesa of today. And the precautions and safety measures of the '50s were far different than any modern work site.
Lynne Loss was a little girl during that era living in Los Alamos when her father worked as an engineer in the lab and mother worked on site buying nuclear supplies.
"My brother used to go down into the canyon with his friends behind our house on Walnut Street and he would come home and tell mama that the deer had tumors on them," Loss said.
In 1957, her family moved to Colorado, but she fears the damage was already done by then. Her father Henry Davis was frequently exposed to radiation and beryllium, a lightweight metal used in weapons.
"And then he would come home with it on his clothes and we would have to wash his clothes with ours and sit on the furniture, eat dinner, and whatever you do when you're a family," Loss said.
Davis suffered for 40 years from beryllium disease and radiation exposure, finally dying in 1994. Soon after, Loss learned she had colon cancer.
"'God', I said, 'don't put my family through all of this,'" she said. "I have two beautiful sons and five grandkids. I said I don't want them to go through this with me. I said, 'I want you to take me now or heal me' and God I guess so far has wanted me to stay here and do this interview and help others."
Loss is helping by pleading with Congress to add family members to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. It's a law that allows the federal government to pay out employees whose jobs exposed them to radiation while helping to build America's nuclear arsenal.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is sponsoring amendments to the act.
"That's an issue that we've been working on a lot over time," Udall said. "And I think if a family member can show they have significant exposure, then there is a good argument they should be included."
Udall admits at this point, family members of employees aren't covered under the act, but it may be in the works.
"I think what we've done with the family members specifically is to try to do all of the studies, to include money to do research, to find out what the impact specifically has been on the families," he said. "I believe there is probably an impact on families, especially if a miners, millers or others were working in the industry to produce the material for atomic bombs, national security work -- I believe if they brought that material on their clothes and into their house, if they didn't leave it at work, if they brought souvenirs and pieces of rock that would leak radon, all of those things could make a real difference."
It would help children of lab employees like Loss. Her cancer has hurt her physically and financially.
"Oh my god, David and I lost all of our retirement money, $300,000 paying my medical," she said. "My deductibles went up. My premiums went up. Everything went up sky high."
Thousands of men and women helped to make the country safer and stronger by lending their brains and hands to research that could eventually cost them their lives and now the lives of their children. Lynne Loss hopes her country won't forget about her.
Updated: May 05, 2017 10:26 PM
Created: May 05, 2017 07:52 PM
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