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Plutonium plant fire's long-lasting effects still relevant

Though many people think of the more recent tragedy that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, when they hear the date, a tragedy just as momentous occurred almost 50 years prior outside of Denver.

A fire began in nuclear weapons facility that was harboring plutonium. Though safety precautions had been installed, they failed, leaving the building at risk while radioactive smoke entered the surrounding airspace. Firefighters contained the flames and eventually were able to stop the blaze, but not before they were exposed to high levels of radiation. Since the incident, media coverage has all but disappeared on the statuses of the brave men who put themselves in increased amounts of danger.

According to an author of a new book detailing the events and after effects of the fire, the contaminated area most likely contributed to a high jump of cancer, brain tumors and birth defects. She said studies and autopsies revealed local citizens containing plutonium in tissue samples, along with bone and lung cancer at increased rates than normal. However, government officials refute the findings, claiming it is impossible to link cancer rates to the 1957 accident. In addition, monitoring of local citizen's health has never taken place.

Other problems have arisen, also. The author said the plant workers suffered illnesses and died from their time at the facility, and many who claimed compensation never are still waiting to receive it because the accident was never documented correctly.

About 13,000 plan employees did receive $554 million thanks to a lawsuit in 2006.

The issues from the plant fire continue to this day. In fact, some studies have proven local residents should be concerned about groundwater and soil. Also, it has been known some judges have protected major chemical companies while builders keep the tragedy and plutonium levels secret from homeowners.

Though uncommon, this story demonstrates the need for workers' compensation and death benefits in Colorado.

Source: The Atlantic, "A September 11th Catastrophe You've Probably Never Heard About," Andrew Cohen, Sept. 10, 2012

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Eley Law Firm
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