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Question marks, the elephant in the room and the refusal of nuclear power defenders to consider what has happened to people and the environment since Fukushima and Chernobyl

June 25, 2011

by Janette D. Sherman and Joseph Mangano

Not only is it unthinkable to put our babies at risk by continued use of nuclear power plants, but infant mortality is an indication of an entire population’s health. When an unusual number of babies are dying, we are all at risk and must take a stand.
By concentrating only on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) data – incomplete at best – and ignoring the on-going radioactive releases from Fukushima, it is apparent that the pro-nuclear forces are alive and active.

In the recent article published on June 9, 2011, in the San Francisco Bay View, there were two question marks in the title: “Is the Dramatic Increase in Baby Deaths in the U. S. a Result of the Fukushima Fallout? How Can we Find Out? In the Counter Punch article published in the weekend edition on June 10-12, 2011, again there was a question mark at the end of the title, “Is the Dramatic Increase in Baby Deaths in the US a Result of the Fukushima Fallout?” The question marks were intended to stimulate interest and prompt demand for governments – Japan and the U. S. at least – to provide definitive and timely data about the levels of radioactivity in food, air and water.

We received many responses, some in support of our concerns and some critical about how we used CDC data, including outright ad hominid attacks accusing us of scaremongering and deliberate fraud.

Given the fallibility of humankind, we may have erred, and if so, will admit it. Given the delay in collecting data and the incompleteness of the collection, the criticism may be valid. MMWR (CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) death reports have certain limits – representing only 30 percent of all U.S. deaths. They list deaths by place of occurrence, while final statistics are place of residence and deaths by the week the report is filed to the local health department, rather than date of death. Finally, some cities do not submit reports for all weeks. The CDC data are available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/mmwr_wk/wk_cvol.html.

Since the article was originally published, we have had the chance to further analyze the CDC data. Historically, the change in infant deaths for the previous six years in eight Pacific Northwest cities from weeks 8-11 (pre-Fukushima) to weeks 12-21 (post-Fukushima) is about 6 percent – never above 11 percent. But in 2011, the change was 35 percent, far above anything ever experienced.

The same eight cities, the same comparison – four weeks 8-11 vs. 10 weeks 12-21 infant deaths:

  • 2005 +4.1 percent
  • 2006 +10.0 percent
  • 2007 +5.1 percent
  • 2008 +5.5 percent
  • 2009 +2.8 percent
  • 2010 +10.9 percent

The average for 2005-2010 is + 6.1 percent for a total of 1,249 infant deaths.

  • 2011 +35.1 percent (162 infant deaths)

Before 2005, there were missing data. But the years 2005 to 2010 are about 98 percent complete.

A girl holds her petition asking the Education Ministry to protect children from radioactive contamination at Fukushima prefecture during a rally at the ministry in Tokyo on May 23. Some 400 civic group members, including 60 parents and children from Fukushima, demanded a review of the radiation limit of 3.8 microsieverts per hour set by the Education Ministry for children in Fukushima. – Photo: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images
Parents in Japan are now reporting that their children are developing nosebleeds, diarrhea and lack of energy – the same medical conditions seen in the children of Chernobyl. (“Chernobyl – Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment,” by Alexey V. Yablokov, Vasily B. Nesterenko and Alexey V. Nesterenko. Consulting Editor: Janette D. Sherman-Nevinger. New York Academy of Sciences, 2009.)

Given the detection of “hot particles” in Japan and as far away as Seattle, there is reason for concern. When ingested or inhaled, “hot particles” give intense radiation to local tissue areas. (See http://www.fairewinds.org.) We acknowledge that many factors can cause infant deaths, but the critics who ignore Japanese fallout as possible contributing factors are acting irresponsibly.

We have unassailable data that children who received x-ray and other radiation in their young lives, the unborn and children are most vulnerable to the adverse effects from radiation. (National Academy of Science, “Health Effects of Exposure to Low levels of Nuclear Radiation,” BIER VII, 2005.)

More importantly, while criticizing our use of CDC data, many commentators ignore the continuing radioactive releases from Fukushima, spreading across the Pacific Ocean. It is biologically certain that there will be negative impacts upon many life forms, from plankton to whales, and upon the unborn and youngest humans. TEPCO has admitted that the initial releases were twice as high as they claimed and that they did not reveal that three reactors had melted down. Why is this being ignored?

The question mark stimulated the thinking of some readers who expressed concern about the lack of on-going EPA and other official monitoring data documenting levels of radioactivity in our air, food and water. After EPA reported 44.5 pCi/l of I-131 in precipitation for the week covering March 22-32, 2011, the EPA has cut back to quarterly measurements. Why – at this time? EPA measurements of I-131 in precipitation were as high as 390 pCi/l in Boise, Idaho; 138pCi/l in Richmond, Calif.; and 86.8 pCi/l in Portland, Ore. (EPA data are at http://www.epa.gov/japan2011/rert/radnet_sampling_data.html#precip.)

While not strictly a West Coast city, Boise, Idaho, is approximately 430 miles from the Pacific Ocean and was included because of the high levels of fallout. “Radiation that contaminates a community need not come from nearby. The intense radiation measured in 1953 in Albany, N.Y., came from a bomb test at the Nevada Test Site, the fallout cloud passing 40,000 feet overhead, and carried to earth in a thunderstorm.” (Sherman, J.D., “Life’s Delicate Balance.” Taylor and Francis, p. 65, 2000.)

As Greenpeace activists make a projection on the wall of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant sarcophagus, Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International (left), and Tobias Muenchmeyer, nuclear expert, Greenpeace Germany (right), hold an anti-nuclear banner on April 26, 2011, at the very minute of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl explosion on that date in 1986. – Photo: © Vadim Kantor, Greenpeace
Remember too that the first indication of the Chernobyl release was detected in Sweden, where the peak concentration of Cs-137 in air occurred on April 28, 1986, two days after the meltdown, but 99 percent of Chernobyl-derived radionuclides were deposited in Sweden during a single period of rain May 8, 1986.” (Yablokov, et al, p. 12.)

No governmental entities are currently monitoring the levels of radioactivity in milk or the changes in diseases anywhere in the U.S. Of special concern is Sr-90 that concentrates in the teeth and bones of children and the un-born and I-131 that concentrates in the thyroid gland of all humans as well as in the unborn, while Cs-137 concentrates in soft tissue and muscles.

Many who contacted us expressed concern and asked how to protect the health of their own children. If citizens do not have definitive information about levels of various isotopes, they cannot take steps to protect themselves and their children. The current news indicates that radioactive fallout continues to spread across the hemisphere, blanketing oceans, lakes, farmland and cities – everywhere that people live, breathe and eat. We call for extensive monitoring of at least Cs-137, Sr-90, I-131, plutonium, and hot particles in food, water and air, across the U. S, with the data available to the public without delay.

Shortly after the Chernobyl meltdown, there was an increase in Iodine-131 in milk in Washington, D.C. There are no dairy cows in Washington, D.C., but a major source of milk comes from the farmlands of Maryland and Pennsylvania, downwind from Three Mile Island, Peach Bottom and Limerick nuclear power plants and of course from other worldwide fallout. Mangano reported that the highest rates of thyroid cancer in the U. S. – for Blacks, whites, old and young are in eastern Pennsylvania. This information has been largely ignored. (Mangano, JJ., “Geographic Variation in US Thyroid Cancer Incidence and a Cluster Near Nuclear Reactors in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.” International Journal of Health Services 2009;39(4):643-61)

The current news indicates that radioactive fallout continues to spread across the hemisphere, blanketing oceans, lakes, farmland and cities – everywhere that people live, breathe and eat. We call for extensive monitoring of at least Cs-137, Sr-90, I-131, plutonium, and hot particles in food, water and air, across the U. S, with the data available to the public without delay.

Governments and the nuclear industry have reason to treat the public like mushrooms – keep them in the dark and feed them S#@T – and with a few exceptions, so does the corporate press. All the evidence from Japan indicates that TEPCO, the company that owns the Fukushima reactor, and the Japanese government have done just that.

The Fort Calhoun Station nuclear power plant in Nebraska is surrounded by floodwaters from the Missouri River in this photo taken June 14. Officials and the mainstream media are saying there is no danger of a radiation leak at the plant 19 miles north of Omaha. – Photo: AP
Unless the public demands the truth, we will continue to see the Fukushima releases and now the struggling Cooper reactor in flood-plagued Nebraska kept out of the news.

If there is political wrangling over the cost of Medicare and Medicaid, just wait until the next wave of sickness becomes manifest! We either pay attention now, or we pay later – with our health and our savings.

Janette Sherman is an internist and toxicologist and contributing editor of the book, “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment.” Visit her website at www.janettesherman.com. Joseph Mangano is an epidemiologist and executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project research group, www.radiation.org.

 

3 thoughts on “Question marks, the elephant in the room and the refusal of nuclear power defenders to consider what has happened to people and the environment since Fukushima and Chernobyl

  1. Judy Brady

    The most salient sentence is "More importantly, while criticizing our use of CDC data, many commentators ignore the continuing radioactive releases from Fukushima…"

    The charade reminds me of the ridiculous debates about climate change, idiotic because the denials kept coming despite the growing body of evidence that climate change was already happening. Now, there is apparent general consensus that climate change is a reality, but governments and international corporate interests still block any possible social changes to address the deepening crisis which, by this late date, is no longer a crisis that can be resolved, much less abated; it is just too late. The same was true about Chernobyl and now about Fukushima. Rather than taking what would be the reasonable approach — which would be to raise red flags by scrupulously searching for the facts about what is really happening and loudly proclaiming them so that all can hear and know them — individuals, governments, and corporate media spend their time, money and technology in denying statements made by people who are trying to see what is really going on and how that is affecting populations world wide. There you are, standing in the tracks as a train rushes toward you, and instead trying to stop the train or at least get out if its way, you continue to stand in the tracks insisting that there's no danger.

    So the data is shaky. It would be nicer if the data were guaranteed. But really, the current data on infant mortality — whatever it may be — while interesting and provocative, is not the point here. The point is this: a horrendous nuclear accident has threatened the population of the whole earth (which we know because of our experience with Chernobyl), and we need to be figuring out how to protect as much of our earth and its life as we can while also making sure this can't happen again. Shrugging our shoulders at Chernobyl has led us to Fukushima. If we shrug our shoulders again, the next disaster will doubtless be even worse. The primary beneficiary of our blinders in the face of both Chernobyl and climate change in the past has been corporate profit, and that will be the primary (short-lived, however) beneficiary from pretending that Fukushima and future nuclear accidents are nothing we need worry about. In the meantime, the enormity of the damage and destruction done to millions of people and billions of other life forms on this earth is incalculable.

    Reply
  2. Mitchell McAleer

    wow, that's a spectacular effort to use a catastrophe to segue into political agenda pimping. Good luck with that. Why do you think Phil Jones of the CRU got laid off for six months and demoted after the climategate leaked emails?

    Reply

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