After years of polluting Earth’s atmosphere and ecosystems with nuclear material from atomic bomb tests, the U.S. government in 1953 launched “Project Sunshine,” a secret, international program to study the amount of radioactive fallout in the environment. The cheery-sounding program sought particularly to understand the impact of strontium 90, an unstable, radioactive version of a naturally occurring element which threatened to riddle people and animals with cancer.

Jeffrey Sanders.

Now, novel research by Jeffrey Sanders, associate professor of history at Washington State University, is shedding new light on Project Sunshine and the intersection of environmental history, Cold War culture and the production of scientific knowledge.

“Just as radioactive strontium moved through ecological systems, this project follows the twists and turns of strontium 90 through different atomic cultures between 1945 and 2000,” Sanders said.

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