Print Friendly and PDF
oppenheimer los alamos new mexico
Big Stock Photo

'Oppenheimer' stirs up conflicted history for Los Alamos and New Mexico downwinders

2 min read

Associated Press reporter Susan Montoya Bryan writes about the new movie depicting the life and complex legacy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man who changed the course of the world’s history by shepherding development of the first atomic bomb.

In a nutshell:

The film has faced criticism from downwinders residing in a community near the New Mexico testing site for failing to acknowledge the harmful impacts of the Manhattan Project on their lives and health. The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, along with the Union of Concerned Scientists, has been working to shed light on the consequences of the Trinity Test, which exposed residents to harmful radiation without their knowledge, leading to serious health issues like cancer.

Advocates hope that conversations about the film will help raise awareness about the downwinders' plight and push for recognition and justice from the U.S. government. While Los Alamos, home to one of the nation's premier national laboratories and a focal point in the film, celebrates Oppenheimer's legacy, the downwinders seek acknowledgment and restitution for the harm caused by nuclear weapons testing.

Key quote:

“They’ll never reflect on the fact that New Mexicans gave their lives. They did the dirtiest of jobs. They invaded our lives and our lands and then they left,” Tina Cordova, a cancer survivor and founder of a group of New Mexico downwinders, said of the scientists and military officials who established a secret city in Los Alamos during the 1940s and tested their work at the Trinity Site some 200 miles away.

The big picture:

In the decades following the Trinity Test, millions of people were exposed to radioactive fallout from atmospheric and underground testing of Cold War nuclear weapons, particularly across the Intermountain West This exposure led to serious health issues, including an increased risk of cancer and other related illnesses among the affected population. The health consequences of the Manhattan Project's nuclear weapons activities continue to be a crucial topic in discussions about its legacy and the need for acknowledgment and support for the impacted communities.

Read the article at the Associated Press.

The U.S. has a long history of 'hidden pollution' that harms local communities. Join former EHN weekend editor Peter Dykstra as he takes a look at four U.S. stops steeped in history and lingering pollution, including at the notorious Hanford plutonium production facility in Washington State.

About the author(s):

EHN Staff

Articles written and posted by staff at Environmental Health News

Become a donor
Today's top news
From our newsroom

LISTEN: How Western media could better cover climate change in the Middle East

“The whole media of the Western countries don’t do justice to some of the works being done here.”

Everyone is likely overexposed to BPA

If you're using plastic, you're likely above acceptable health safety levels.

Opinion: The global food system is failing small-scale farmers — here’s how to fix it

Maybe we don’t need Jamaican coffee in the middle of US winter.

LISTEN: Bruce Lanphear on how we’re failing to protect people from pesticides

Lanphear recently resigned as the co-chair of the Health Canada scientific advisory committee on pest control products.

How does cannabis impact developing brains?

As states increasingly legalize or decriminalize marijuana, some experts warn that early exposure may be linked to mental health problems later in life.