Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud: Nuclear Testing, Radioactive Fallout, and Damage to U.S. Agriculture, 1945 to 1970

  • Keith Meyers (a1)
Abstract

In the 1950s the United States conducted scores of atmospheric nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site. This article studies the effects of radioactive fallout from nuclear tests on agriculture in regions hundreds of miles from the NTS. While research has shown that this radioactive material posed a health risk near the NTS, little is known about the direct economic effects nuclear testing may have had. I find that fallout from nuclear tests adversely affected U.S. agricultural production, and this result suggests that nuclear testing had a much broader economic and environmental impact than previously thought.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud: Nuclear Testing, Radioactive Fallout, and Damage to U.S. Agriculture, 1945 to 1970
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud: Nuclear Testing, Radioactive Fallout, and Damage to U.S. Agriculture, 1945 to 1970
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud: Nuclear Testing, Radioactive Fallout, and Damage to U.S. Agriculture, 1945 to 1970
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All

This article is derived from work done in the first chapter of my dissertation, which was completed at the University of Arizona. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number SES 1658749. Additional financial support was provided by the Economic History Association. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or Economic History Association. Thanks to Price Fishback, Ashley Langer, Derek Lemoine, Cihan Artunç, Jessamyn Schaller, Gary Solon, Noelwah Netusil, Richard Hornbeck, and Alex Hollingsworth for feedback, data, and support. Additional thanks to Andre Bouville, Steven Simon, and the National Cancer Institute for their help providing fallout deposition records.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Almond, Douglas, Edlund, Lena, and Palme, Mårten. “Chernobyl’s Subclinical Legacy: Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout and School Outcomes in Sweden.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 124, no. 4 (2009): 1729–72.10.1162/qjec.2009.124.4.1729
Ball, Howard. Justice Downwind: America’s Atomic Testing Program in the 1950s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Beierwaltes, William H., Crane, Horace R., Wegst, Audrey, et al.Radioactive Iodine Concentration in the Fetal Human Thyroid Gland from Fall-Out.” JAMA 173, no. 17 (1960): 1895–902.10.1001/jama.1960.03020350013003
Black, Sandra E., Bütikofer, Aline, Devereux, Paul J., et al. “This Is Only a Test? Long-Run Impacts of Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout.” NBER Working Paper No. 18987, Cambridge, MA, October 2017.
Bleakley, Hoyt, and Hong, Sok Chul. “Adapting to the Weather: Lessons from U.S. History.” Journal of Economic History 77, no. 3 (2017): 756–95.10.1017/S0022050717000675
Boustan, Leah Platt, Kahn, Matthew E., and Rhode, Paul W.. “Moving to Higher Ground: Migration Response to Natural Disasters in the Early Twentieth Century.” American Economic Review 102, no. 3 (2012): 238–44.10.1257/aer.102.3.238
Bustad, L. K., George, L. A. Jr., Marks, S., et al.Biological Effects of I131 Continuously Administered to Sheep.” Radi a tion Research 6, no. 3 (1957): 380413.10.2307/3570619
Carter, Susan B., Gartner, Scott S., Haines, Michael R., et al. Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennial Edition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Centers for Disease Control. Report on the Health Consequences to the American Population from Nuclear Weapons Tests Conducted by the United States and Other Nations. Technical report. Atlanta, GA: CDC, 2006. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/fallout/default.htm.
Clay, Karen, Troesken, Werner, and Haines, Michael. “Lead and Mortality.” Review of Economics and Statistics 96, no. 3 (2014): 458–70.10.1162/REST_a_00396
Conley, Timothy G.GMM Estimation with Cross Sectional Dependence.” Journal of Econometrics 92, no. 1 (1999): 145.10.1016/S0304-4076(98)00084-0
Danzer, Alexander M., and Danzer, Natalia. “The Long-Run Consequences of Chernobyl: Evidence on Subjective Well-Being, Mental Health and Welfare.” Journal of Public Economics 135 (2016): 4760.10.1016/j.jpubeco.2016.01.001
De Micco, Veronica, Arena, Carmen, Pignalosa, Diana, et al.Effects of Sparsely and Densely Ionizing Radiation on Plants.” Radiation and Environmental Biophysics 50, no. 1 (2011): 119.10.1007/s00411-010-0343-8
Dreicer, M., Aarkog, A., Alexakhin, R., et al. Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident for the Natural and Human Environments. No. UCRL-JC--125028. Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Livermore National Lab., 1996.
Fehner, Terrence R., and Gosling, Francis George. Origins of the Nevada Test Site. No. DOE/MA-0518. Washington, DC: Department of Energy, 2000.10.2172/769471
Fehner, Terrence R., and Gosling, Francis George. Atmospheric Nuclear Weapons Testing, 1951–1963. Battlefield of the Cold War: The Nevada Test Site, Volume I. DOE/MA-0003. Washington, DC: Department of Energy, 2006.
Fehner, Terrence R., and Gosling, Francis George. The Manhattan Project. Washington, DC: Department of Energy, 2012.
Flemming, Arthur S.Public Exposure to Radiation.” Public Health Reports 74, no. 5 (1959): 441.10.2307/4590476
Flemming, Arthur S.Strontium 90 Content of Wheat.” Public Health Reports 75, no. 7 (1960): 674.10.2307/4590894
Fradkin, Philip L. Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy. Boulder, CO: Johnson Printing Company, 2004.
Garner, R. J.Environmental Contamination and Grazing Animals.” Health Physics 9, no. 6 (1963): 597605.10.1097/00004032-196306000-00003
Gilbert, Ethel S., Huang, Lan, Bouville, Andre, et al.Thyroid Cancer Rates and 131I Doses from Nevada Atmospheric Nuclear Bomb Tests: An Update.” Radiation Research 173, no. 5 (2010): 659–64.10.1667/RR2057.1
Haines, Michael. Historical, Demographic, Economic, and Social Data: The United States, 1790–2002. Dataset ICPSR02896-v3, Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, Ann Arbor, MI, 2010.
Haines, Michael, Fishback, Price, and Rhode, Paul W.. United States Agriculture Data, 1840–2010. Dataset ICPSR35206-v2, Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, Ann Arbor, MI, 2015.
Hornbeck, Richard. “The Enduring Impact of the American Dust Bowl: Short and Long-Run Adjustments to Environmental Catastrophe.” American Economic Review 102, no. 4 (2012): 1477–507.10.1257/aer.102.4.1477
Ichikawa, Ryushi, Abe, Michiko, and Eto, Masako. “Evaluation of the Origins of Strontium-90 Contained in Wheat Plant.” Science 133, no. 3469 (1961): 2017–18.10.1126/science.133.3469.2017-a
Ito, Nobuyuki, and Kuriyama, Koichi. “Averting Behaviors of Very Small Radiation Exposure via Food Consumption after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station Accident.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 99, no. 1 (2017): 5572.10.1093/ajae/aaw078
Jan, Sumira, Parween, Talat, and Siddiqi, T. O.. “Effect of Gamma Radiation on Morphological, Biochemical, and Physiological Aspects of Plants and Plant Products.” Environmental Reviews 20, no. 1 (2012): 1739.10.1139/a11-021
Kawaguchi, Daiji, and Yukutake, Norifumi. “Estimating the Residential Land Damage of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident.” Journal of Urban Economics 99 (2017): 148–60.10.1016/j.jue.2017.02.005
Kerber, Richard A., Till, John E., Simon, Steven L., et al.A Cohort Study of Thyroid Disease in Relation to Fallout from Nuclear Weapons Testing.” JAMA 270, no. 17 (1993): 2076–82.10.1001/jama.1993.03510170066032
Kulp, Laurence and Slakter, Rieta. “Current Strontium-90 Level in Diet in United States.” Science 128, no. 3315 (1958): 8586.10.1126/science.128.3315.85
Lange, Fabian, Olmstead, Alan L., and Rhode, Paul W.. “The Impact of the Boll Weevil, 1892–1932.” Journal of Ec o nomic History 69, no. 3 (2009): 685718.10.1017/S0022050709001090
Lawrimore, Jay H., Menne, Matthew J., Gleason, Byron E., et al.An Overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network Monthly Mean Temperature Data Set, version 3.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 116, no. D19 (2011).10.1029/2011JD016187
LeBaron, Wayne D. America’s Nuclear Legacy. Commack, NY: Nova Publishers, 1998.
Lehmann, Hartmut, and Wadsworth, Jonathan. “The Impact of Chernobyl on Health and Labour Market Performance.” Journal of Health Economics 30, no. 5 (2011): 843–57.10.1016/j.jhealeco.2011.07.011
Meyers, Keith. “Measuring Policy’s Role in Mediating Responses to Agricultural Productivity Shocks.” Unpublished manuscript, 2018a.
Meyers, Keith. Replication Files - “In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud: Nuclear Testing, Radioactive Fallout and Damage to U.S. Agriculture, 1945 to 1970.” Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2018b. https://doi.org/10.3886/E105700V1.
National Agricultural Statistics Service. NASS Quickstats 2. Dataset, 2015. Available at https://quickstats.nass.usda.gov/.
National Cancer Institute. “Estimated Exposures and Thyroid Doses Received by the American People from Iodine-131 in Fallout Following Nevada Atmospheric Nuclear Bomb Tests.” Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 1997.
Oatsvall, Neil. “Atomic Agriculture: Policymaking, Food Production, and Nuclear Technologies in the United States, 1945–1960.” Agricultural History 88, no. 3 (2014): 368–87.10.3098/ah.2014.88.3.368
Olson, Theodore A.Strontium-90 in the 1959 United States Wheat Crop.” Science 135, no. 3508 (1962): 1064.10.1126/science.135.3508.1064
Rivera, Joseph. “Distribution of Strontium-90 in a 1959 Wheat Sample.” Science 133, no. 3455 (1961): 755–56.10.1126/science.133.3455.755
Seegmiller, Janet Burton. A History of Iron County: Community Above Self. Iron County, UT: Utah State Historical Society, 1998.
Sparrow, Arnold H., Schwemmer, Susan S., and Bottino, P. J.. “The Effects of External Gamma Radiation from Radioactive Fallout on Plants with Special Reference to Crop Production.” Radiation Botany 11, no. 2 (1971): 85118.10.1016/S0033-7560(71)90643-0
Stevens, Walter, Thomas, Ducan C., Lyon, Joseph L., et al.Leukemia in Utah and Radioactive Fallout from the Nevada Test Site: A Case-Control Study.” JAMA 264, no. 5 (1990): 585–91.10.1001/jama.1990.03450050043025
Troesken, Werner. “Lead Water Pipes and Infant Mortality at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.” Journal of H u man Resources 43, no. 3 (2008): 553–75.
U.S. Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce “The Forgotten Guinea Pigs” A Report on Health Effects of Low-Level Radiation Sustained as a Result of the Nuclear Weapons Testing Program Conducted by the United States Government. Washington, DC: GPO, 1980.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Statistics 1950. Technical report. Washington, DC: GPO, 1950.
U.S. Department of Energy. United States Nuclear Tests July 1945 through September 1992. Technical Report DOE/NV-209-REV 15. Las Vegas, NV: Department of Energy, 2000.
Van Middlesworth, Lester. “Radioactivity in Thyroid Glands Following Nuclear Weapons Tests.” Science 123, no. 3205 (1956): 982–83.10.1126/science.123.3205.982
Wolff, Arthur H.Radioactivity in Animal Thyroid Glands.” Public Health Reports 72, no. 12 (1957): 1121.10.2307/4590010
Wolff, Arthur H.Milk Contamination in the Windscale Incident.” Public Health Reports 74, no. 1 (1959): 42.10.2307/4590365
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Economic History
  • ISSN: 0022-0507
  • EISSN: 1471-6372
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-economic-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
UNKNOWN
Supplementary materials

Meyers supplementary material
Online Appendix

 Unknown (926 KB)
926 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed