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Was John Wayne exposed to radioactive dust?

RICHLAND — There is a long-held myth by the American media that exposure to radioactive dust caused lung cancer in actor John Wayne. 
This and other nuclear fallout myths and facts will be explored during the Herbert M. Parker Foundation Fall 2009 Lecture at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 22 in the Battelle Auditorium, 902 Battelle Blvd. Admission is free and open to the public.
Bruce W. Church will present “American Atmospheric Nuclear Weapons Testing: The Connection between John Wayne and Radioactive Fallout, and Other Tales.”
The John Wayne myth revolves around the legend that dust contaminated with nuclear fallout was in the air during the filming of the 1950s movie “The Conqueror” a few miles north of St. George, Utah, in Snow’s Canyon. This dust allegedly caused lung cancer in the famous actor and many supporting cast members.
“This lecture will discuss the particulars of fallout physics and dose to people as a result, using the John Wayne story and other tales as an illustration of how atomic weapons testing and fallout affect society,” Church said.
Church is president of BWC Enterprises Inc. and is a past-president of the nonprofit Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation. He retired from the U.S. Department of Energy in 1995 as assistant manager for environment, safety, security and health at the Nevada Operations Office.
This is the Herbert M. Parker Foundation fall lecture, co-sponsored by WSU Tri-Cities. For driving directions, visit
The Herbert M. Parker Foundation for education in the radiological sciences was created in 1987. It was incorporated into the WSU Foundation in 1997 as an endowment based at WSU Tri-Cities. For more information on the Parker Foundation, call 509-372-7264 or visit

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