Kodak Accidentally Discovers the Trinity Tests

Kodak Accidentally Discovers the Trinity Tests

(IntegrityPress.com) – Imagine New Mexico, early summer of 1945; you’ve poured a cup of coffee and stepped outside to grab the morning paper. The sun is beginning to rise off in the distance as birds are chirping to the start of another day. All of a sudden you hear what sounds like an explosion and an orange fireball like nothing you’ve ever seen before shoots to the stars. Then all is dead silent. You stand there feeling like you just entered the Twilight Zone. If you knew what just passed through you, you’d wish you had.

Meanwhile, 1,900 miles away, at the Kodak headquarters, complaints begin pouring in about their x-ray film. The film is foggy and developing in sporadic areas. Scientists there are baffled.

Unexpected Damage

X-ray film is extremely sensitive compared to regular film, so their factories are specifically designed to prevent any type of contamination, especially radioactive contamination. Even when shipped out, the company makes extra efforts to protect this film from damage, so much so that Kodak’s cardboard packaging comes from paper mills they own and operate.

Upon investigation, the company found the damaged film was coming from one of their mills in Vincennes, IN.

Pinpointing the Source

Julian Webb, a Kodak scientist, assuming the issue would be radium, decided to investigate further and traveled to Indiana. What he found wasn’t radium; it was a new radioactive isotope. The same issue was arising at another paper mill in Iowa. Webb soon realized that what he had discovered was Cerium-141, dangerous beta-particle radiation that could penetrate skin, paper and many other materials effortlessly — a common product of nuclear fission.

With further testing, Julian Webb realized this radiation had occurred recently. There had to be a common denominator. Water! Both mills sat beside rivers; one was near the Wabash River and the other sat next to the Iowa River. Webb believed the straw or cornsilk they packaged the film in may have absorbed some of the radioactive water. The next rainfall would tell the story, and that it did. Heavy precipitation showed stronger radioactivity.

Eventually, the United States bombed Hiroshima, ending WWII. The government continued to test nuclear weapons near Las Vegas, while Geiger counters 2,500 miles away read 25 times above background radiation. Kodak, who had inadvertently discovered the government’s Trinity Tests, threatened to sue for damages but settled for the knowledge of when and where the next test bomb would be, so they could appropriately care for their products.

Others would be left in the dark as invisible isotopes irradiated food, Iodine-131 led to thyroid cancer and every American citizen alive was at some risk from radioactive fallout.

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