Kodak’s Radioactive Moment [...]


Fogged Kodak film.
Photo courtesy of Oak Ridge Associated Universities
Eastman Kodak investigated, and found something mighty peculiar: the corn husks from Indiana they were using as packing materials were contaminated with the radioactive isotope iodine-131 (I-131). Eastman Kodak at the time had some of the best researchers in the country on its team (the company even had its own nuclear reactor in the 1970s), and they discovered something that was not public knowledge: those farms in Indiana had been exposed to fallout from the 1945 Trinity Test in New Mexico — the world’s first atmospheric nuclear bomb explosions which ushered in the atomic age. Kodak kept this exposure silent.

Some of the facts in the story are — like the film in question — a little hazy. Some claim Kodak’s discovery happened in 1946, some in 1945. The Trinity Test was officially July of 1945, but I can believe that by the time corn was exposed to the radiation, picked, the husks converted to packing material and the film packaged and sold, it could well have been 1946. Given that the government initially denied that the Trinity Test was even nuclear, instead calling it an “ammunition explosion,” perhaps Kodak’s silence is more understandable

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