Guest Blog by Tiffany Hansen
Two years ago, in the dark basement in our Denver home, suffering from myriad aliments, some more visible than others, I had the “AH HA” Google-search moment of my life. After plugging in every symptom I’ve suffered along with the magic word ‘causes’ I discovered that I grew up downwind from a Nuclear Bomb Factory. It sounds so dramatic, like something out of a movie, maybe even delusional. But it is true. I grew up in Arvada, only 3.75 miles directly downwind from Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. In 1990, at age 18, I moved out of my small town and headed to Denver.
We never talked about Rocky Flats growing up, even though my father had been a contractor at the Plant, even though my brother had for a summer dug trenches there, even though the plant lit up the skyline outside my bedroom window.
Panicked about what I found out in my google search about Rocky Flats, I reached out to family, my mom, my brother. It caught them off guard to say the least. They each stumbled to remember. It added to the anxiety that my brother was suffering heart problems at the time and I discovered that I had a tumor on my ovary.
Thinking back I was sick a lot growing up near Rocky Flats. I was in the hospital a lot with what I now believe to be radiation positioning and I had a tumor removed from my thyroid (what I have since learned is a downwinder scar). Yet, no one in my family really thought about Rocky Flats. But, thankfully the internet not only led me to rediscover Rocky Flats, it allowed me to reach out to former neighbors to inquire how about people’s health. Needless to say, what I discovered was horrifying, and I was grief struck. My family wasn’t the only one to experience illness. Nearly every call to former friends, ex-boyfriends, and neighbors who had lived in Arvada revealed a shared commonality, one that included sick and dying family and friends.
This led me to realize that there might be others, former Rocky Flats Downwinders who are also sick, people that have moved out of state. Most of the current literature about Rocky Flats focuses on the technicalities. The discussions get caught up in soil samples, PLU levels, and water monitoring.
The goal is to create a list of former residents as a starting point to conduct a community health survey that can support a decision to implement medical monitoring for Rocky Flats Downwinders.
Ed note: If you are a person who lived downwind of the Rocky Flats nuclear facility between 1951 and 1989, you can contribute your health information at www.rockyflatsdownwinders.com.