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Half Life: A Parable for the Nuclear Age (1985)

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clip The poison

This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

In 1954 the US exploded a hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The inhabitants of the nearby atolls of Rongelap and Rongerik were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. A Marshallese woman talks to camera about her miscarriage of a stillborn child that exhibited signs of deformity. Her second-born child lived only one month before it became covered in lumps and burns and also died. She attributes the deaths to what she calls ‘the poison’.

Curator’s notes

One of the most devastating effects documented by O’Rourke, and backed up by scientific evidence, is the intergenerational impact that long-term radioactive exposure has had on Marshallese children resulting in birth defects and increased rates of infant mortality. The sadness of this woman’s personal testimony of the loss of her children is emphasised by images of healthy children playing before and after her interview.

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