One of the most popular current reality TV shows explored a harsh reality unknown to most of its viewers and fans: the toxic legacy of the notorious Santa Susana Field Lab.
During a recent episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” Kim and Kourtney Kardashian discussed the toxic legacy of the Santa Susana Field Lab (SSFL) in Simi Valley, California, highlighting the human and health impacts of the failure to adequately clean up the former nuclear production and testing site. During the episode, the Kardashian sisters met with a group of activists seeking to clean up the site, including parents of children with cancer, and Kim spoke with Denise Duffield, Associate Director of PSR Los Angeles. Although it has long been an issue for nearby residents in California, potential contamination at SSFL drew national attention once again in 2018 when a fire at the site led to the devastating Woolsey Fire.
Duffield reached out to Kim Kardashian at that time and asked her to use her platform to spread awareness of the potential hazards associated with SSFL. Kim embraced the opportunity to use her celebrity status and huge social media following (she has has 62.5 million followers on Twitter and over 151 million on Instagram) to call for justice for nearby communities and draw attention to demands to clean up the site properly. Kim has a history of engaging with social justice issues and leveraging her status as a powerful tool for advocacy, and Kourtney has also taken the opportunity to engage in activism. This particular issue is personal for the Kardashian family.
“We are just miles away from this place,” Kim noted during the episode. “I remember hearing these stories. There’s a street, and everyone on the street is sick.”
Her mother’s longtime friend, Lisa Miles, had dealt personally with the potential health impacts of exposure, as her husband’s illness may have been due to proximity to the SSFL site.
“There’s widespread contamination in the soil, in the groundwater, and in the surface water,” noted Duffield in an excerpt from their conversation during the episode.
This episode has exposed a wider audience to this critical issue, an audience that might otherwise never learn about the history of a former rocket testing site or hear about its impact on Simi Valley residents.
“The community is grateful to Kim and Kourtney Kardashian for their efforts help make sure that DOE, NASA, and Boeing comply with agreements to fully clean up nuclear and chemical contamination at SSFL,” said Duffield by email to PSR.
“They are, of course, parents too, and were really moved by meeting local mothers of children diagnosed with cancers near the site. The Kardashians’ advocacy—reaching out to elected officials, tweeting to their followers, and featuring SSFL on their TV show—has really helped increase public visibility and engagement in cleanup efforts.”