by Janette D. Sherman, M.D.
Yomiuri, a Japanese newspaper with the largest circulation of any newspaper in the world, reported Oct. 23 that 7 percent of earthquake evacuees living in temporary housing and 46 percent in evacuation shelters in the hard-hit city of Ishinomaki have developed deep thrombophlebitis, the swelling of a vein caused by a blood clot. The condition raises risks of brain infarction and can be fatal if the clots flow to the lungs and block pulmonary arteries.
“The March disaster forced people who had previously worked outdoors in farming and other industries to spend a longer time indoors,” said Shinsaku Ueda, a respiratory surgeon at Ishinomaki’s Red Cross Hospital, quoted by Yomiuri to explain the increase. “Less physical activity in their daily life seems to allow the formation of blood clots more easily.”
The article adds to the concerns for those adversely affected by the Fukushima nuclear power disaster, the largest since Chernobyl in 1986, which is occurring only 85 miles from Ishinomaki. However, there may be an alternative explanation for the increase in blood clots, in addition to inactivity.
Unless the biological properties of radiation are canceled, the adverse effects observed in the Chernobyl population will certainly occur in those exposed to the fallout from Fukushima.
Increased clotting may be due to several factors: changes in the clotting of the blood or in the walls of the vessels, as well as from inactivity. Radioactive isotopes are absorbed via respiration and with food and water. These very small particles are transported throughout the body via the blood and lymph systems. While in contact with the lining of the vessels – and incidentally the gut – the isotopes cause damage to the cells via release of radiation.
For both children and adults, diseases of the blood and circulatory and lymphatic systems are among the most widespread consequences of the Chernobyl contamination, and especially among evacuees and those who worked on cleanup – called “liquidators.”
Of great concern are the findings that changes occurred not only in peripheral blood vessels, but in those of the brain, leading to changes characteristic of advanced aging, but also loss of mentation.
We know that high and continuing levels of isotopes, including Cs-137, are being released from the damaged Fukushima plants. Cs-137, like potassium, becomes deposited in soft tissue. Data from Chernobyl confirmed elevated Cs-137 levels and adverse effects upon the blood, blood vessels and heart, even in children. The work demonstrating the link between Cs-137 and heart damage in Belarus’ children by Bandashevsky earned him a prison sentence.
Let us hope that those observing changes in the health of the population of Japan will continue to report their findings – that includes scientists, physicians, nurses, social workers, teachers, veterinarians and observant citizens. As with the findings after Chernobyl, a more complete picture of adverse effects will emerge.
How to learn more about the effects of radiation exposure
For more information, I refer you to “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. This 327-page book was originally published in 2009 by the New York Academy of Sciences at $150. The right to reprint has been transferred to the authors, and we are making it available for $10, plus postage, so as to put this vital knowledge in the hands of the people.
The new edition, which includes an index that was not part of the original book, can be ordered from Greko Printing, 260 W. Ann Arbor Rd., Plymouth, MI 48170, (734) 453-0341 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Office hours are 9 to 5 Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. You can also click on the link at www.sfbayview.com on the right side of each page.
In an expert review commissioned by an Oxford journal on radiation, Dr. Ian Fairlie observes that “this volume makes it clear that international nuclear agencies and some national authorities remain in denial about the scale of the health disasters in their countries due to Chernobyl’s fallout. This is shown by their reluctance to acknowledge contamination and health outcomes data, their ascribing observed morbidity/mortality increases to non-radiation causes, and their refusal to devote resources to rehabilitation and disaster management.”
Janette D. Sherman, M.D., is a physician and toxicologist, specializing in chemicals and nuclear radiation that cause cancer and birth defects. The author of “Chemical Exposure” and “Life’s Delicate Balance: Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer,” she has worked in radiation and biologic research at the University of California nuclear facility and at the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory at the Hunters Point Shipyard in San Francisco. From 1976-1982, she served on the advisory board for the EPA Toxic Substances Control Act. Throughout her career, she has served as a medical-legal expert witness for thousands of individuals harmed by exposure to toxic agents. Dr. Sherman’s primary interest is the prevention of illness through public education and patient awareness. She can be reached at www.janettesherman.com.