Why This Area Just Outside Of Denver Is Radioactive

Why This Area Just Outside Of Denver Is Radioactive

In the late 1950s, leukemia rates in the plant’s surrounding towns were double the national average (via  The New York Times). Infant death rates began to grow after 1957. But nevertheless, the Atomic Energy Commission didn’t tell the students or parents and instead kept mum about the whole thing.

The Rocky Flats plant didn’t clean up its act — things got worse from there (per Britannica). Since the facility stored metal barrels outside in the elements, the barrels became leaky. From 1958 onward, the barrels were a consistent source of oil leaks. Then, in 1969, the plant caught on fire. By that point, Colorado locals were beginning to speculate something was amiss, and they formed community groups to need answers about the safety of their water, land, and air.

Local activism didn’t stop the plant from continuing with its atrocious safety record. In the 1970s, high levels of tritium were discovered in nearby Broomfield’s water supply, and soil samples were found to be polluted with plutonium. Angered Rocky Flats residents sued the company in 1975, citing the dangerous contamination of their homesteads (via the Rocky Flats Cold War Museum).

And in the grand scheme of things, for people living in Denver and Rocky Flats, maybe it was already too late to prevent radioactive materials from getting into their lungs: Many workers lived so close to the plant that they were regularly breathing in the exhaust pipe smoke.

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