Reckoning With Blasts From the Past

From 1949-1963, some 1.5 million people were exposed to fallout from above-ground nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan. Among the tests was a nuclear weapon detonation 25X stronger than the bomb dropped at Hiroshima. High winds on the Kazakh steppe spread the exposure far and wide.

Some were rushed to hospital with radiation sickness right away, others gave birth to children more likely to have chromosomal diseases like Down’s syndrome—and for others, the effects took decades to surface in the form of conditions like heart disease.

Decades later, patterns are beginning to emerge in the data collected from survivors of the exposure and their descendants.


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