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Anencephaly birth defects near Hanford nuclear site skyrocket 3,000%

Radioactive waste

(NaturalNews) Anencephaly is one of the most terrifying and deadly of all human birth defects. The disorder occurs during the embryonic stage and results in infants being born lacking a major portion of the brain. Very few children born with anencephaly survive more than a few hours or days.

Fortunately, anencephaly is quite rare -- except for those living in a three-county area in the central part of the state of Washington, where the rate of children born with the disorder is more than 2,500% above the national average.

Despite efforts by authorities to cover up the link, it would seem obvious to even the most casual observer that the high incidence of the defect is somehow connected to the Hanford nuclear facility, which is located in the vicinity where the cases are occurring.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation, one name by which it is known, is considered to be the most contaminated nuclear site in the Western Hemisphere and is the focus of the world's biggest environmental cleanup effort.

To understand how the site has become so contaminated and why so few of us have ever heard of it, a little background is necessary.

The Hanford facility, which is owned by the U.S. government and operated by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE), was created in 1943 during WWII and played a major part in the development of the atomic bombs which were dropped on Japan.

The facility remained a major producer of plutonium throughout the Cold War. Sixty-seven metric tons of plutonium were produced there in the U.S. effort to maintain its nuclear weapon superiority. Sixty percent of the United States's high-level radioactive waste is currently stored at Hanford.

Needless to say, an aura of secrecy was maintained regarding the facility, and that secrecy continues to be manifested -- due not only to efforts on the part of the government but also to the loyalty of the locals who took pride in their involvement in the project and who wanted to protect the jobs that it generated in the area.

However, in the late 1980s, concerned citizens and whistleblowers managed to obtain documents through the Freedom of Information Act which revealed that the government had covered up a number of serious health threats -- leaky underground tanks which contain high-level radioactive waste and even the intentional dumping of waste into the Columbia River.

In one of the worst incidents, which occurred in 1949, 8,000 curies of iodine-131 were released into the Columbia River. To put that into perspective, the Three Mile Island meltdown only released 15-24 curies of iodine-131 were released into the environment.

Over the years, the leaky tanks at Hanford have released more than a million gallons of waste, contaminating 200 square miles of groundwater which is slowly migrating into the Columbia River.

The long-term implications of the contamination at Hanford are only now beginning to be fully understood as the extent of the leaks and the threat to the health of those living in the area continue to be revealed.

The effects on humans from radiation exposure are still being studied, but one thing is certain - many of the effects of radiation poisoning show up in following generations, which is probably the reason for the high rates of anencephaly currently being seen in the area.

But anencephaly is only one of the health problems associated with the Hanford contamination. There have been thousands of cases of cancer, lung disease and other ailments suspected to have been caused by the radiation contamination in the areas near the facility.

It is time for the government to stop hiding its secrets regarding Hanford and the health threat to the public. It's also time for the voices of victims of the contamination to begin to be heard.

Compensating those who have suffered is part of the solution, along with a continuing effort to clean up the site for good.

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