BOISE - Decades after nuclear weapons were tested in western states, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is making an effort to compensate victims of radiation known as downwinders.
Tona Henderson, a downwinder from Emmett, made the journey to Washington, D.C., to testify at a hearing this afternoon over Crapo's Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2017.
Crapo chaired that Senate committee today.
Introduced last year, Crapo's legislation would increase compensation and widen eligibility requirements for victims of radiation who have been denied help from the government.
The nuclear weapons were tested back in the 1950s and 60s. If approved, this act would add Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and several other states to existing areas where victims can apply for compensation.
Crapo says Tona Henderson played a key role in this legislation. She heads the Idaho downwinders group.
Henderson has stated that of all her family members who have had cancer, 38 of them, 14 have died and were in Emmett during the testing times.
“There is a story I've heard over the years there were four boys in a family, they all drank milk except for one. They all drank milk by the gallon as boys typically do and three of them have developed cancer. The fourth boy was allergic to milk, he drank a substitute and does not have cancer,” she said.
Henderson also said that her family's story of cancer is just one of many in Idaho's "Valley of Plenty," an area which she now refers to as "The Valley of Death."
Crapo added that the Idaho counties of Custer, Gem, Blaine and Lemhi had some of the highest levels of iodine 131 exposure, and fallout from nuclear tests often came in the form of rain on food supplies.