The day of the accident, before the public was alerted, hundreds of residents living near Three Mile Island reported having had symptoms of radiation poisoning identical to those described by U.S. service members and down winders of atomic bomb blasts. These symptoms included a metallic taste in their mouths; skin rashes and instant sunburn of exposed skin; vomiting and/or diarrhea, which in some cases continued for months; hair loss; and intense weakness and flu-like symptoms.
Some also reported an eerie blue density in the air that lasted for days; a grayish-white ash that fell to the ground (also reported in the Marshall Islands immediately following atomic bomb tests in the Pacific, where the U.S. exploded 106 atomic bombs between 1946 and 1962); an unnatural orange glow above the reactor site; and rust-colored residue in their sinks and tubs, indicating radioactive contamination of the water supply. Several area residents reported the metallic taste and other physical symptoms over the next few years at times they later learned happened to coincide with the venting of radioactive krypton gas during the cleanup.
Over time, unusually high numbers of both strange and common cancers began showing up among residents, particularly those living in the path of the radiation plumes that crept over nearby communities during the first few days following the accident. Myriad other health problems appeared -- miscarriages, stillbirths, infant deaths, thyroid diseases, various autoimmune disorders, heart problems and the sudden onset of allergies.
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