Nuclear testing has been a source of concern for many years, and with good reason. The effects of nuclear testing on human health, the environment, and the communities affected by it are far-reaching and long-lasting. On the 75th anniversary of the first nuclear test in the United States, it is important to take a closer look at the dangers of nuclear testing and the steps that have been taken to limit its effects.The most significant health consequence of nuclear testing is thyroid cancer, primarily due to exposure to radionuclide 131I (UNSCEAR 200). It is difficult to accurately assess the number of deaths caused by radiation exposure from nuclear tests, but it is clear that many communities have been affected.
Nuclear test bombs have been dropped from airplanes and launched up to 320 km into the atmosphere, as well as detonated on vulnerable communities in the Pacific and on the lands and territories of indigenous peoples.In response to these dangers, several treaties have been signed in an effort to limit nuclear testing. The Underground Nuclear Weapons Test Limitation Treaty (also known as the Threshold Test Ban Treaty) was signed in 1974 and prohibits nuclear tests with a yield greater than 150 kilotons. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was signed in 1996 and bans all nuclear tests in any environment. This treaty also recognizes the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons activities on indigenous peoples and women and girls.When a nuclear detonation occurs, people, plants, and animals can be exposed to radioactive materials through rain.
Iodine-131 (I-131) is one of the most harmful radioactive materials released during a nuclear test, as it exposes the thyroid gland for approximately two months after each test. In addition, radioactive materials can be sent up to 50 miles into the atmosphere after a detonation.In 1991, a study by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) estimated that radiation and radioactive materials from atmospheric tests conducted by humans up to 2000 would cause 430,000 deaths from cancer. This number has likely increased since then.It is clear that nuclear testing poses a serious threat to human health, the environment, and vulnerable communities. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to limit its effects.
By adhering to treaties such as the Underground Nuclear Weapons Test Limitation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, we can work towards reducing the dangers of nuclear testing.