By Sophie Weinberg, Intern
Last week marked the 75th anniversary of the two bombings that changed the course of the world, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not only did these two bombings obliterate the populations of two Japanese cities, but they also still impose lasting health effects on those residents.
Thousands of people died in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki following the explosions. These immediate deaths were due to the explosion, the fires that followed, and radiation poisoning. Although many people did immediately die from exposure to radiation, there were many survivors of the explosions who faced the health consequences of radiation later in life. A major consequence of this radiation is the mutation and damage of genes, which therefore leads to cancer. For bomb survivors, the risk of cancer, specifically Leukemia, was shown to be 46%. This type of cancer typically appeared a couple years after the bombings. The United States government obviously understood the immediate civilian casualties that would occur from dropping the bombs but did not take into account the suffering and death that would continue decades later.
Similarly, the U.S. also failed to acknowledge the lasting health effects of other chemicals used during wartimes. Specifically, the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam is still poisoning people today. Both U.S. and Vietnamese military forces together used more than 20.2 million gallons of herbicides to destroy trees as a military tactic. These herbicides, and specifically Agent Orange, contain dioxins. Dioxins are a highly toxic group of chemicals that, among other health effects, can cause cancer. U.S. Veterans of Vietnam are still suffering from the effects of Agent Orange and are being compensated for their health issues. On the other hand, Vietnamese citizens who are battling similar consequences have not been awarded the same considerations.
Today, chemical companies in the U.S. are still disregarding human health in the manufacturing, use, and disposal of various chemicals. Many communities are suffering from health complications due to toxins in their air, water, and soil. In order to avoid the lasting health consequences of toxic chemicals, the government must do more to protect residents of these communities. Specifically, the government needs to provide more regulation on industries to avoid long-lasting health complications in sacrifice zones. In addition to this, the government should compensate communities that already have faced these adverse health effects, just as was done for Vietnam Veterans.