Ex-governor's death blamed on atomic tests

October 09, 1990

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The son of former Gov. Scott M. Matheson believes the open-air atomic testing whose dangers his father fought to expose caused the cancer that killed him.

Matheson died Sunday at age 61 of multiple myeloma. He lived in Cedar City in the early 1950s when the government conducted dozens of above-ground tests 300 miles away in Nevada that caused radioactive fallout to drift into Utah.

As governor from 1977 to 1985, Matheson fought to expose the dangers of those tests and gain compensation for radiation victims -- an effort that succeeded with the passage by Congress last week of a compensation bill.

Scott M. Matheson Jr. said yesterday his father found it an "interesting wrinkle" that he was diagnosed with a disease that Congress recognized as having possible links to atomic fallout.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood-producing bone marrow and has been recognized as a malignancy that can be caused by radiation.

From 1952 to 1954, Matheson was a deputy Iron County attorney in Cedar City. From 1951 to 1958, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission set off more than 100 atomic bombs at the Nevada Test Site.

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