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Fukushima – worse than Chernobyl

February 24, 2012

by Janette D. Sherman, M.D., and Joseph J. Mangano, M.P.H.

Masses of Japanese rallied in Tokyo on Feb. 11. Even larger demonstrations are planned for March 11, the first anniversary of the Fukushima meltdown.
There is good news and bad news: The good news is that 11 months after the Fukushima meltdown, thousands of Japanese marched in the streets to protest the continuing operation of nuclear power plants in their country, and urged a shift to renewable energy. Some 250,000 people signed petitions to close the reactors in the Tokyo area. Meanwhile in the U.S. the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the building of two new nuclear power plants in Georgia.

The investigative reporter, Karl Grossman, for his program Envirovideo, interviewed Dr. Sherman on March 5, 2011, and she said that it was just a matter of time before we have another nuclear meltdown. Less than a week later, on March 11, following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Fukushima Daiichi did just that. On March 19, Professor Alexey Yablokov, the senior author of “Chernobyl – Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment,” arrived on a previously planned visit to Washington, D.C. In a series of radio and TV interviews, we opined, even that early, it appeared that Fukushima was worse than Chernobyl – the latter continuing to harm 25 years later.

On March 25, before Professor Yablokov flew to Seattle for a series of talks, Matt Wald of the New York Times interviewed him. In two follow-up emails asking Wald what he planned to do with the interview, Wald wrote on Nov. 7: “I have not published anything on that conversation and I’m not sure I will … I don’t think the thrust of the book has achieved sufficient scientific traction,” and “I don’t believe there’s evidence that human exposures from Fukushima approach those of Chernobyl.”

The stance of the New York Times is not surprising, as a bastion of corporatism, so well explained in Chris Hedges’ book: “Death of the Liberal Class.” Selective blackouts such as this must push citizens to educate themselves – if we do not understand the many adverse effects caused by Chernobyl, how can we prepare for and document the ones surely resulting from Fukushima. If we don’t know the history of Chernobyl, how can we prevent yet more nuclear meltdowns?

On March 14, three days after the earthquake, when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was still on fire, the plume was visible in this satellite image. Fallout reached the U.S. a day later, four days after the earthquake. – Photo: Digital Globe, Reuters
Xenon-133 from Fukushima fallout was detected in the United States just four days after the earthquake, tsunami and meltdowns, and additional isotope deposition was reported that week. Some samples of radioactivity in precipitation, air, water and milk, taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed levels hundreds of times above normal; however, the EPA, in its wisdom, stopped collecting weekly samples, reverting to quarterly ones.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported weekly deaths by age in 122 cities, which represents about 25 to 35 percent of the population total. Deaths rose 4.46 percent from 2010 to 2011 in the 14 weeks after the arrival of Japanese fallout, compared with a 2.34 percent increase in the prior 14 weeks. The number of infant deaths after Fukushima rose 1.80 percent, compared with a previous 8.37 percent decrease. Projecting these figures for the entire United States yields 13,983 total deaths and 822 infant deaths in excess of the expected numbers. ((Mangano, J.J., Sherman, J.D., “An Unexpected Mortality Increase in the United States Follows Arrival of the Radioactive Plume from Fukushima: Is There a Correlation?” International Journal of Health Services, Volume 42, Number 1, pages 47-64, 2012.)) An updated analysis using the entire year 2011 raised the excess deaths to 21,851.

By contrast to nuclear tests that prolong the release of radioisotopes by dispersion into the stratosphere, emissions from nuclear power plants are dispersed at low atmospheric levels, brought down by rain and snow in a matter of days to weeks. Every nuclear power plant releases a number of isotopes, whether it is operating “normally” or melting down. These include Sr-90, Cs-137, I-131, argon, krypton, xenon and barium, taken up by animals, plants and humans.

The epidemic increase in childhood and adult cancer has occurred since World War II, when both chemical and radiological pollution spread over the world. Half a century later, there is no longer any doubt that radioisotopes in concert with industrial chemicals have caused this epidemic. ((Carson, R., “Silent Spring,” 1962, Sherman, J.D., ibid. 2000.))

There is no longer any doubt that radioisotopes in concert with industrial chemicals have caused the epidemic increase in childhood and adult cancer that has occurred since World War II.

All forms of cancer can be induced by radiation. The incidence increases with cumulative dose, and younger aged individuals – human, animals and plants alike – are more sensitive to ionizing radiation than adults. It is not only cancer that is of concern, but genetic damage, birth defects, over-all health and loss of intellectual capacity, the latter absolutely essential for survival. In Belarus, only 20 percent of children are considered well by official standards since the Chernobyl catastrophe.

A unique study of Norwegian children, exposed early before birth to low-level Chernobyl fallout, demonstrated lower intellectual capacity than a comparable group not exposed. ((Sverdvik, K., et al. “Effect of low dose ionizing radiation exposure in utero on cognitive function in adolescence.” Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, Volume 51, Issue 3, pages 210–215, 2010.))

In addition to many shocking physical deformities, it is common for children born near Chernobyl to be mentally deficient. These children, photographed in 1997, 13 years after the Chernobyl meltdown, live in the Novinski Asylum in Minsk, Belarus. Only 20 percent of children in Belarus are considered well. – Photo: ©Paul Fusco, Magnum Photos
After the Chernobyl meltdown, not all biological systems were studied, but of those that were – wild and domestic animals, birds, fish, plants, fungi, bacteria, viruses, humans, etc. – all were altered, many irreversibly. Genetic damage and reduced viability across species continues to be documented.

In Belarus, only 20 percent of children are considered well by official standards since the Chernobyl catastrophe.

Studies of mutation rates of plants and animals around Chernobyl have increased by up to a factor 20 due to release of radionuclides. Rare bird species suffered greater impact than more common ones. Given that each slightly deleterious mutation is expected to result in a selective genetic death and that an average fruit fly under normal conditions may carry as many as 80 mutations, the number of mutations in animals and plants around Chernobyl and hence the number of selective deaths is bound to be much higher. ((Moller, A.P., Mousseau, T.A., “Conservation consequences of Chernobyl and other nuclear accidents,” Biological Conservation 144 (2011) 2787-2798.))

Bird populations in Fukushima appear to fare worse than those near Chernobyl. Analysis of 14 species common to the two areas revealed a negative effect of radiation immediately after the March 11, 2011, accident upon abundance, differing between areas and species, during the main breeding season in March to July, when individuals work close to their maximum sustainable level. ((Moller, A.P, et al. “Abundance of birds in Fukushima as judged from Chernobyl,” Environmental Pollution 164: 36-39, 2012.))

The citizens of San Francisco’s Hunters Point neighborhood have long known that factors adversely impacting children, adults and the unborn are emissions from incinerators and dumps, chemicals released from various industrial processes, pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Repeated small exposures to radionuclides and to many industrial and agricultural chemicals produce additive and synergistic effects, resulting in greater toxicity than from a single equivalent dose.

What is to be done?

It is absolutely essential that health and environmental data be compiled and made available to the public in an open and transparent way so that contamination levels are known. This information is needed to anticipate and structure health care for those damaged by the fallout of radioactive isotopes. It is in this context that governments must be able to handle increased disease levels. Given the known fallout of radioactive iodine, it is likely that various thyroid diseases (hypo-, hyper-, non-malignant and malignant disease) will increase, thus testing and treatment must be planned for and available.

But beyond just diagnosing and treating more people with radiation-related disease, we can truly prevent these diseases by closing nuclear power reactors, thus reducing exposure to radiation. This is not a theory, but a reality with precedents. After President John F. Kennedy signed the 1963 treaty banning above-ground atom bomb tests, there was an immediate and drastic decline in U.S. infant deaths and cancer in young children. After the closing of eight U.S. nuclear power plants in the 1980s and 1990s, similar declines occurred in down-wind areas. ((Mangano, et al., “Infant death and childhood cancer reductions after nuclear plant closing in the U.S.,” Archives of Environmental Health, 57(1): 23-32, 2002.))

After President John F. Kennedy signed the 1963 treaty banning above-ground atom bomb tests, there was an immediate and drastic decline in U.S. infant deaths and cancer in young children.

With one in six of our population living within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor, the opportunity for a healthier future is great indeed.

Every remaining nuclear power plant is a disaster waiting to happen. Twenty-three of these in the U.S. are the same design as those that are melting down at Fukushima Daiichi. California’s San Onofre and Diablo Canyon nuclear plants are located on the ocean, next to known earthquake faults, and up-wind of huge populations where evacuation is next to impossible. Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, on the Hudson River, is 35 miles north of New York City, where it is a threat to one-fifth of the entire U.S. population.

Protesters marched in Yokohama on Jan. 14.
If 100,000 protested nuclear power in Japan, why is this not happening in the U.S.? Is it because we are so poorly educated scientifically and politically that we don’t “get it”?

I hope not! Or is it the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. government and the nuclear industry in support of this dangerous and unsustainable industry? Protests against the excesses of Wall Street are taking place – can we mobilize to close all nuclear power plants?

Since the Fukushima disaster, only two of 54 Japanese reactors are operating – the rest closed for inspection and upgrades. Germany and Switzerland have pledged to phase out their reactors, and other nations are considering the same.

Unless the earth stops turning and the laws of chemistry, biology and physics are rescinded, the radioisotopes being released from Fukushima will cause worldwide harm to life. It is in our hands to prevent another Chernobyl or Fukushima.

Dr. Sherman is the contributing editor of “Chernobyl – Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment,” now available at orders@grekoprinting.com. (Originally costing $150, the authors have reduced the price to $10 so it can be widely acquired and read. ed.) She can be reached at janettesherman.com. Mr. Mangano is executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project and can be reached at radiation.org.

 

17 thoughts on “Fukushima – worse than Chernobyl

  1. G. Pondonome

    Unfortunately, much of the argument here is a house built on sand.

    The study cited showing excess deaths in the United States is seriously flawed. You have been had.

    For a thorough shredding of this report, see Michael Moyer's post at Scientific American on December 20.

    Moyer notes first the authors assert without evidence that fallout arrived in the US six days after the quake. Then they dismiss the actual evidence: the EPA monitored radioactivity in air, water, and milk; and detected few measurable concentrations.

    No evidence? No problem! The authors conjure their deaths by dubious statistics, for which they provide no error estimates, no account for any bias whatsoever in their analysis.

    Were their conclusions true, then it would follow that the radiation from Fukushima spread instantly, but undetectably, from coast to coast and started killing people immediately, by means unknown and unprecedented.

    I recommend you read Moyer's piece, and follow that up with Darrell Huff's "How to Lie with Statistics."

    Reply
    1. unspokenhermit

      I too completely agree that the report in so called Medias claiming few thousand deaths was fabricated. People are curious to know why they did so.

      I just found this new study, produced independent organization Datapoke, concerning the estimated concentrations of radionuclides at upper altitudes. The report indicates concentrations orders of magnitude higher than those physically recorded at near surface level.
      http://www.datapoke.org/blog/8/study-modeling-fuk

      The report includes dispersion images but I can’t figure out how to post them here. Can anyone post the dispersion images?
      http://www.datapoke.org/partmom/a=40

      Reply
    2. M. E.

      "the EPA monitored radioactivity in air, water, and milk; and detected few measurable concentrations."

      so you basically don't know that there is no need for measurable concentrations of radioactivity for particles to enter the body and give cancer? how comforting that the nuclear lobby can rely on people like you…

      Reply
      1. Matte Patte

        Perhaps you should consider what you can measure compared to what you already have in you?
        K-40, ~4000 Bq (naturaly occuring)
        C-14, ~3000 Bq (naturaly occuring)

        Now, if you ingest/inhale something you can't even measure, why would you worry?

        Reply
        1. randall bramstedt

          First, you need to learn how to spell before I can believe your bogus numbers here.
          K-40 and C-14 do NOT naturally occur at those levels in humans. Where do you get
          that B.S.?

          If the EPA turns off their sensors, drastically increases the time between sampling,
          and suspiciously raised the standards for "safe" levels, then of course it will
          show "few measurable concentrations."

          Reply
    3. Lowflyin Lolana

      Yeah! Those EPA monitors work great!! There isn't even one within 50 miles of San Onofre….and the ones that do exist, aren't working so well.

      Regarding those RadNet sensors, check out this chart showing radiation levels in Sacramento, which, curiously enough, shows radiation levels DROPPING noticeably right after March 11th last year! Weird? You bet. http://blog.alexanderhiggins.com/2011/05/19/confi

      Reply
  2. Heartbroken

    Sherman/Mangano data on excess US deaths post-Fukushima at Counterpunch:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/06/10/is-the-increase-in-baby-deaths-in-the-us-a-result-of-fukushima-fallout/

    Sherman/Mangano data re-examined – and the number of excess US post-Fukushima deaths IS statistically significant (S/M data apparently underplays it, if anything):

    During the ten weeks before March 11 those four cities suffered 55 deaths among infants less than one year old. In the ten weeks after Fukushima 78 infants died – a 42 per cent increase and one that is statistically significant. To confirm once again that these results were not due to seasonality Sprey compared these infant deaths in the ten weeks after Fukushima to the deaths in the equivalent ten weeks a year earlier. The results were almost identical with the ten weeks before Fukushima in 2011. Within the equivalent ten weeks of 2010 53 infants died in these four cities.

    The post-Fukushima deaths are 47 per cent higher than they were in the same period a year before – once again statistically significant. If you add Boisie, Idaho to the four city sample the results remain almost unchanged.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/06/17/definitely-bachmann-over-weiner/

    Tracking infant deaths from radioactive fall-out in a previous era:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2010/12/22/baby-tooth-science/

    This is genocide. Who condemns their kids to this? Are we crazy, or what?

    Reply
  3. Andrew Grimes

    In light of the article above on “Fukushima – worse than Chernobyl” perhaps your readers would be interested in seeing Professor Kodama’s expert testimony that he gave to the Committee of Health, Labour and Welfare in the Japanese Parliament recently.

    There are many uploads of Dr Kodama's impassioned and expert speech in Japanese. Collectively the number in Japanese is getting up to 1,000,000 views and still growing. The one with the largest number of views is at over 600,000

    and can be seen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9sTLQSZfwo&fe

    If all you good people there in the US and around the world who are in support of the truth and concerned about the health of the good people of the Fukushima area and Touhoku disaster region can kindly twitter, facebook, tweet etc on to your social networks maybe we can get this English version to go over 1,000,000 and even more viral too. This would help put world pressure and support getting fast, effective and healthy solutions to this ongoing disaster that threatens so many adults and children now and in the future. Dr Kodama is a medical doctor specialized in cancer treatment and a leading authority on the effects of radiation on people's health at the University of Tokyo and has been working in this field for decades. Spread his words please, for the sake of us all in Japan and our children's children too. Thank you

    English version: (click on ‘cc’ on the video panel for translation in English) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9sTLQSZfwo&fe

    All the best from Tokyo.

    Tokyo Counseling Services http://tokyocounseling.com http://tokyocounseling.com/english

    Counseling and Psychotherapy in Japan http://www.counselingjapan.com

    Reply
  4. Port

    Finally!

    This is an excellent article that finally tells the truth about the dangerous situation at Fukushima and how the U.S. has been harmed by it!

    Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Judith Bardell

    The obvious problem is that nuclear reactors will continue to operate until they fail disastrously. They will hardly ever be shut down for old age. This is just human nature as we see it playing out.

    Reply
    1. Lowflyin Lolana

      OK, it's just a coincidence that the number of cancers has exploded since the US started exploding nukes and building plants.
      The cell phones are causing it! Oh wait…nonthermal radiation does no harm just like nukes do no harm. Yeah right!

      Reply

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