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Medical records from contaminated areas speak for themselves; doctors, scientists and citizens bear witness to the devastating health impacts of radioactive fallout from nuclear accidents Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
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Official denial by nuclear lobby
The Chernobyl disaster occurred on 26 April 1986at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near the city of Prypiat in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, and close to the administrative border with Belarus. A sudden power output surge prompted an attempt at emergency shutdown; but a more extreme spike in power output led to the rupture of a reactor vessel and a series of explosions. The graphite moderator was exposed, causing it to ignite, and the resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe. From 1986 to 2000, 350 400 people were evacuated and resettled from the most contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. According to official post-Soviet data, about 57 % of the fallout landed in Belarus . Chernobyl is widely considered to have been the worst nuclear accident in history and one of only two classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown in 2011 (see  Fukushima Nuclear Crisis, SiS 50).
From the beginning, the official nuclear safety experts were at pains to minimise the projected health impacts, as they are doing now for the Fukushima accident.
The UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) estimated a “global collective dose” of radiation exposure from the accident “equivalent on average to 21 additional days of world exposure to natural background radiation”. Successive studies reported by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) continued to underestimate the level of exposure and to understate health impacts other than  “psychosocial effects, believed to be unrelated to radiation exposure” resulting from the lack of information immediately after the accident, “the stress and trauma of compulsory relocation to less contaminated areas, the breaking of social ties and the fear that radiation exposure could cause health damage in the future.”
The number of deaths attributed to Chernobyl varies widely . Thirty-one deaths are directly attributed to the accident, all among the reactor staff and emergency workers. An UNSCEAR report places the total confirmed deaths from radiation at 64 as of 2008. The Chernobyl Forum  founded in February 2003 at the IAEA Headquarters in Vienna with representatives from IAEA and UN agencies including UNSCEAR, WHO, the World Bank, and Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, estimates that the eventual death toll could reach 4 000 among those exposed to the highest levels of radiation (200 000 emergency workers, 115 000 evacuees and 270 000 residents of the most contaminated areas); the figure includes some 50 emergency workers who died of acute radiation syndrome, 9 children who died of thyroid cancer and an estimated total of 3950 deaths from radiation-induced cancer and leukemia. The Union of Concerned Scientists based in Washington in the United States estimates another 50 000 excess cancer cases among people living in areas outside the most contaminated, and 25 000 excess deaths. A Greenpeace report puts the figure at 200 000 or more. The Russian publication, Chernobyl, by scientists Alexey V. Yablokov, Vassily B Nesterenko, and Alexey V. Nesterenko, translated and published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009, concludes that among the billions of people worldwide who were exposed to radioactive contamination from the disaster, nearly a million deaths had already occurred between 1986 and 2004. Most of the deaths were in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine  (see Truth about Chernobyl, SiS 47). The report drew on thousands of published papers and internet and printed publications. Those publications and papers, written by leading Eastern authorities, were downplayed or ignored by the IAEA and UNSCEAR. These agencies minimised their estimates by several ploys including :
- Underestimating the level of radiation by averaging exposure over a large regions, such as an entire country; so high exposure doses and health statistics of the most contaminated areas are lumped together with the less and least exposed
- Ignoring internal sources of radiation due to inhalation and ingestion of radioactive material from fallout
- Using an obsolete and erroneous model of linear energy transfer due to external sources of ionising radiation
- Not counting diseases and conditions other than cancers
- Overestimating the natural background radiation; today’s ‘background’ has been greatly increased by discharges from nuclear activities including tests of nuclear weapons, use of depleted uranium, and uranium mining
- Suppressing and withholding information from the public.
Nevertheless, the devastating health impacts did not escape the notice of the hundreds of doctors, scientists and other citizens who had to bear witness to the deformities, sicknesses and deaths of exposed babies, children and adults in their care.
This is what we should be examining now, trying to understand and verify what is happening. A good translation of studies of what has happened in Belarus and surrounding areas since Chernobyl would help bolster the case that the danger to children has gone beyond politics and has become a human rights issue. This is critical to understanding Japan's future, and how best to protect its people, just as it affects the rest of the world as we move foward into a time of nuclear accidents. We cannot privilege money and power over public health and the environment or we will lose everything.
Children Radiation Maps l Jan Hemmer Blog 14 April, 2012
On April 5th I went to BELRAD Institute (http://belrad-institute.org/) in Belarus (got 72% of the Chernobyl fallout), with a friend and translator, to get important data about their work. Here I present with the permission of vice director Mr. Babenko of BELRAD, the Children radiation maps of Belarus (below). First, some background on the data: We see here 17 regions of Belarus:
Irradiated areas and relatively “CLEAN” areas. Children have Cesium in their bodies, no matter if they live in “clean” or irradiated areas. This is one important fact these maps show. Why is that? The average irradiated soil in Belarus is: 1 – 40 Curie per square kilometer (= 37,000 – 1,480,000 becquerel per m²) of radionuclides, such as Cesium 137, Strontium 90, Americium 241 and other radionuclides. It reaches also 160 Curie per km², although it is 40 on official maps, but reaches 18,500,000 becquerel per m² in some places. Here is more info: http://tekknorg.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/japanese-children-cancer-outlook-children-need-absolutely-clean-food/ Here is a list of the radionuclides:http://life-upgrade.com/DATA/Primary%20Radionuclides.gif
Caesium 137, food, children, apple pectin:http://radionucleide.free.fr/Stresseurs/smw-Galina_Bandazhevskaya.pdf
Nesterenko, founder of BELRAD: “Children receive the highest doses, because the dose coefficients, in a 3 year old child, are 5 times higher than in adults.“
But the Children Radiation Maps are based uponWhole Body Counter measurments of Children, measuring Cesium 137. They are the latest maps available by Belrad. More Info:http://tekknorg.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/mother-how-much-radiation-%E3%81%8A%E6%AF%8D%E3%81%95%E3%82%93%EF%BC%81%E3%81%A9%E3%81%AE%E3%81%8F%E3%82%89%E3%81%84%E3%81%AE%E6%94%BE%E5%B0%84%E7%B7%9A%EF%BC%9F-2/
Not even world’s biggest nuclear-reactor-children-cancer study (KIKK) counts in INTERNAL radiation:http://tekknorg.wordpress.com/2007/12/17/german-kikk-study-higher-cancer-risc-next-to-atomic-power-plants-unofficial-belarussian-children-cancer-data/They only measure EXTERNAL radiation. No known children cancer study is interested in INTERNAL emitters, although 70 – 90% of radiation comes from food today. THE WORLD HAS TO LEARN FROM BELARUS. If the focus is set only to external radiation, is seen only radiation in water and air, only milli sievert is discussed. Clean city, irradiated food. No children cancer study I know is interested in internal emitters. We can not afford this failure a 2nd time. This is not mere methodology. This is survival.
That we still have to say this after so many years is proof that the industry still has more weight with world governments than people do. So, once again- there is no safe dose of radiation, period. It is not complicated, it is not in question, it is not up for interpretation.
A landmark study on Hiroshima survivors comprehensively disproves nuclear lobby spin about ionising radiation being safe at low doses. Noel Wauchope reports.
Public release date: 1-May-2012 Experts write on the risks of low-level radiation
Los Angeles, CA (May 01, 2012) – Each time a release of radioactivity occurs, questions arise and debates unfold on the health risks at low doses—and still, just over a year after the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, unanswered questions and unsettled debates remain. Now a special issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE, examines what is new about the debate over low-dose radiation risk, specifically focusing on areas of agreement and disagreement, including quantitative estimates of cancer risk as radiation dose increases, or what is known as the linear non-threshold theory (LNT). The issue, which includes essays written by the top experts in their fields, does not claim to put the argument to rest—however, it does provide an indispensible update of the existing literature.
As Jan Beyea, guest editor and nuclear physics and epidemiology expert, says: "The reader will be ready to join the debate armed with a broad-based view of the epidemiologic evidence and its differing interpretations, along with an awareness of the stakeholder and researcher landscape." Beyea personally contributes to the issue and deconstructs the low-level radiation debate, unpacking all its parts and illuminating what deserves more attention and scrutiny...
From 1st of May, the articles are free of charge for one month and can be accessed at http://bos.sagepub.com/. Members of the media can sign up for complimentary subscriptions by email@example.com for details.
The Helen Caldicott Foundation: Disproportionate Harm, Initial Talking Points
There has been a lot of discussion about the spent fuel at Fukushima, especially now - about the reactor #4 spent fuel pool. The harm this could cause should it collapse is incalculable. But, the truth is we are getting sick and dying from radiation exposure already, and it is happening in disproportionate numbers. We need to keep referencing that this is happening now in Japan, and everywhere around the world. We are asking for your help in making this widely known. Please join us!
Disproportionate Harm: Women and Children are more Vulnerable.
This year the Helen Caldicott Foundation in partnership with NIRS, and all other groups who want to join us (national and international), will embark on the start of a major education to action campaign on the effects of radiation exposure on the health of all people. But, its particular focus will be the disproportionate risk radiation exposure poses to women and children. Buried in the literature to date is the fact that men are more resistant to radiation. The safety standards, which time has shown protect no one, were designed at the time of the Manhattan Project to protect young, healthy, western, men. Presumably, military men expected to accept a certain degree of risk in exchange for protecting their country.
Insufficient as it is, even the National Academy of Sciences BEIR V11 Report, widely accepted as the industry standard, clearly states:
- There is no safe dose of ionizing radiation. Any exposure can trigger cancer.
- Although the reasons are not yet clearly understood, women and children are significantly more vulnerable.
- Women are 40-60% more likely to get cancer than men, given the same exposure. They are about 50% (half again) more likely to acquire a fatal cancer from this exposure. This means that for every two men who die of radiation related cancer, three women will die given a similar exposure.
Children between the ages of 0-5 are more vulnerable than all adults, both men and women. But what is almost never discussed, also from the BEIR V11 Report, is that in this age group little girls are twice as vulnerable as boys. This means that for every boy, there will be two girls who will acquire a fatal or non-fatal cancer...
In November of 2011 the Japan Fisheries Agency found that 65% of the Japanese fish catch tested positive for cesium. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency found that 60% of fish had detectable levels of radionuclides but stated they were not concerned about levels. However, cod (18%), sole (22%), seaweed (33%), and eel (21%) caught in November exceeded the radiation ceiling of 100 becquerels/kilogram that Japan will implement this April (after this fall and winter fish catch?) and 1 in 5 of the fish catches tested exceeded this level.
While Canada's level for radiation in food is much higher (and why is that?), 1000 becquerels/kilogram, experts still worry:
"I would probably be hesitant to eat a lot of those fish," said Nicholas Fisher, a marine sciences professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
The pacific ocean provides food for a billion+ people just in Asia, and considerably more, internationally, as fish migrate and fish and fish products are shipped around the world. The Fukushima accident has released 10-100 times more radioactive contamination into the ocean than Chernobyl according to a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution study.
"It's completely untrue to say this level of radiation is safe or harmless," said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
Edwards pointed a finger at the powerful Canadian nuclear lobby as the source of this seeming unconcern about contaminated food. "The reassurances have been completely irresponsible. To say there are no health concerns flies in the face of all scientific evidence."
But the US and Canadian governments persist in denying the danger, as the Canadian government claimed ignorance about debris from Japan (which may also be contaminated by radiation from Fukushima) washing up on the coastline. Despite the fact that people are finding it, the government claims it won't arrive until next year. This seems a tack of desperation rather than logic. It is always better (and less expensive) to protect and prevent, than to scramble around after trying to clean up and cure. Once again it is left to us, the people of the world, to rise up and point out that there is danger, and we must do something about it.
ALEX ROSLIN / Montreal GAZETTEJANUARY 13, 2012
After the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years, authorities in Canada said people living here were safe and faced no health risks from the fallout from Fukushima.
They said most of the radiation from the crippled Japanese nuclear power plant would fall into the ocean, where it would be diluted and not pose any danger.
Dr. Dale Dewar wasn’t convinced. Dewar, a family physician in Wynyard, Sask., doesn’t eat a lot of seafood herself, but when her grandchildren come to visit, she carefully checks seafood labels.
She wants to make sure she isn’t serving them anything that might come from the western Pacific Ocean.
Dewar, the executive director of Physicians for Global Survival, a Canadian anti-nuclear group, says the Canadian government has downplayed the radiation risks from Fukushima and is doing little to monitor them.
“We suspect we’re going to see more cancers, decreased fetal viability, decreased fertility, increased metabolic defects – and we expect them to be generational,” she said.
Foodwatch: Calculated Fatalities from Radiation Officially Permissible Limits for Radioactively Contaminated Food in the European Union and Japan
"The statistics illustrate that as the industry grows older it relies more and more on the willingness of temporary and sometimes desperate workers to risk their health to keep ailing power plants on line...
...Another serious problem is the increasing number of jumpers working at several plants in one year. This increases the worker's total exposure to radiation and the possibility of birth defects, cancer, and leukemia. NRC records indicate that some jumpers worked at as many as five nuclear plants during one calendar year. At the present time the responsibility for reporting past radiation exposure rests solely with the jumpers."
A lot has been written post-Fukushima about Japan's "disposable workers." This is a terrible thing, where men desperate for work take on the worst, most dangerous nuclear jobs; virtually insuring a dangerous level of radiation exposure. The truth is, this has been going on as long as the nuclear industry. Warnings have been issued, suggestions have been made, but the industry couldn't function without them. So, nothing has been done. Laws exist to protect them, but they are not enforced. Records could be kept, but they are not. In a tragic version of "don't ask, don't tell"- few questions are raised by the utilities, and the workers, in dire need of money, have no incentive to come forward. If they did, they would probably bear the brunt of any consequences.
To illustrate just how long this has been a serious issue, here is an excellent piece from 1984. It is still, sadly, quite topical. Almost everything discussed in it is still happening. And it still inspires horror, outrage, and great sadness. Even worse, despite the intervening years, there is almost nothing (accessible) out there that has been written about it. Even this was difficult to find.
They are known as glow-boys or jumpers in the nuclear industry. Since the early 1970s, thousands of temporary workers have been recruited to perform a number of high-risk maintenance and repair tasks, such as detecting leaks, welding and refueling, and waste cleanup and removal. But while federal standards permit jumpers to absorb about ten times the amount of radiation that the general public is exposed to, concerned scientists and industry critics are questioning whether these levels are necessary or socially justifiable.
The jumpers are hired by contractors like Atlantic Nuclear Services of Norfolk, Virginia (an estimated 23,000 have passed through their door since 1974) or directly by reactor manufacturers like Babcock and Wilcox or Westinghouse, which contract repair and maintenance services to more than half of the nation's utilities. Estimates of the number of jumpers this year are as high as 40,000.
"We've had people from a variety of backgrounds, from college professors to bartenders, work for us," says Melvin Miller, a spokesman for Nuclear Services. "They do it because it pays well. Maybe they make a jump and then have some extra money for a vacation that year, or maybe it helps them through rough times in between jobs."
Other jumpers are recruited from the ranks of the construction unions who build the plants when construction work is slow. But the majority are typically people with few job skills and little or no prospects for jobs elsewhere.
Two more recent posts with references to this issue: