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Another Book About the Hazards of Nuclear Radiaton.
Read It. Weep. Take Action.
Janette D. Sherman, M. D.
31 May 2010
It is a good guess that we have become inured to the issue of nuclear radiation. As bad as is the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the meltdown of a nuclear power plant would make that disaster minor in comparison. Given the systemic and human problems with nuclear power, many believe it is a matter of time before we have another nuclear plant meltdown.
We can trace the complacency over nuclear power to at least President Eisenhower's Science Advisory Committee of 1955, chaired by Dr. James Killian who wrote: "The public will need to be indoctrinated to accustom themselves to the fact that low levels of radiation can and must be lived with."
Following the nuclear tests of the 1950s where military personnel and civilians were purposely exposed to nuclear fallout in tests conducted in Nevada and the Marshall Islands, California Senator Alan Cranston attempted to introduce legislation in 1981 to extend veteran's benefits to victims of nuclear experiments. This was countered by William H. Taft IV, general counsel for the Department of Defense who wrote that Cranston's bill created "the unmistakable impression that exposure to low-level ionizing radiation is a significant health hazard" and would be "damaging to every aspect of the Department of Defense's nuclear weapons and nuclear propulsion programs. The legislation could adversely affect our relations with our European allies, impact upon the civilian nuclear power industry, and raise questions regarding the use of radioactive substances in medical diagnosis and treatment."
Thousands of articles and books later, the public lives with mounting cancer rates, fetal loss, low birth weight babies and other illnesses and has indeed become indoctrinated to live with low level radiation. Our government is nearly completely controlled by national and international corporations that benefit from mining, transporting, refining and building nuclear facilities and are exerting every weapon at their disposal to keep the public indoctrinated and accustomed, not only to levels of radiation, but accustomed to illness. Where else but in the U. S. can one see billboards advertising cancer treatment!
A new book, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, published by the prestigious New York Academy of Science is written by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko. The senior author, Dr. Alexey Yablokov was State Councilor for Environment and Health under Russian President Yeltsin and is a member of the Russian Academy of Science (class, Biology) and an Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy Art and Science (Boston, class, Population Biology). Prof. Yablokov receives no financial support other than as Councilor with the Russian Academy of Sciences. Dr. Vassily Nesterenko, head of the Ukrainian Nuclear establishment at the time of the accident, flew over the burning reactor and took the only measurements of the radioactive plume. In August 2009, he died as a result of radiation damage, but earlier, with help from Andrei Sakharov, he established BELRAD to help children of the area. Dr. Alexey Nesterenko is a biologist/ecologist based in Minsk, Belarus. Contributing Editor for the book is Dr. Sherman-Nevinger is a physician and toxicologist and adjunct professor in the Environmental Research Center at Western Michigan University.
Full disclosure: I am the Contributing Editor of this book. The previous edition was published in Russian, but there was no money to fund an English language edition. The senior author, Prof. Yablokov asked me if I would edit the book. I agreed, not realizing it would take 14 months to complete the task. The science and medical data are essentially the same in Russian and English, but the new English edition is 25% larger to include new data.
The authors abstracted data from more than 5,000 published articles and studies, mostly available only in Slavic languages and not available to those outside of the former Soviet Union or Eastern bloc countries. The findings are by those who witnessed first-hand the effects of Chernobyl. The conclusions of this book contrast sharply to findings by the World Health Organization (WHO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) who based their findings on some 300 western research papers, and who found little of concern about the fallout from Chernobyl.
The position of the WHO/IAEA alliance is understandable when one reads the 12th World Health Assembly clause No. 12.40 that states: "... Whenever either organization proposes to initiate a programme or activity on a subject in which the other organization has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement." The document continues: the IAEA and the WHO "... recognize that they may find it necessary to apply certain limitations for the safeguarding of confidential information furnished to them. They therefore agree that nothing in this agreement shall be construed as requiring either of them to furnish such information as would, in the judgment of the other party possessing the information, to interfere with the orderly conduct of its operations."
Based upon the data provided by multiple researchers and observers, the authors of this new book estimated that by 2004, some 985,000 deaths worldwide had been caused by the disaster, giving lie to estimates of 4,000 calculated by the IAEA and World Health Organization.
Increased cancer incidence is not the only observed adverse effect from the Chernobyl fallout -- noted also are birth defects, pregnancy losses, accelerated aging, brain damage, heart, endocrine, kidney, gastrointestinal and lung diseases, and cataracts.
In The New York Times Book Review, published in 1982, the historian Blanche Wiesen Cook wrote of the plight of the atomic veterans as documented in Countdown Zero by Thomas H. Sadder and Orville E. Kelly. What the military men experienced as they were stationed as close as four miles from nuclear test shots -- fallout like ash that burned holes in their uniforms -- is explained in the Chernobyl book. The Chernobyl fallout was made up of "hot particles" formed when the reactor exploded, releasing not only radioactive gases and aerosols but also particles of uranium fuel fused with metal from the reactor body, soil, and other radionuclides, including plutonium. Absorbed into the body with food, water and inhaled air, such particles generate high does of radiation to tissue even if an individual is in an area of low contamination. Fine particles penetrate the lungs, while larger ones cause throat and upper respiratory damage. Hot particles settled upon soil and plants and the cycle of absorption and release of isotopes from soil to plants was put in motion, assuring continued exposures.
The link between U. S. atomic veterans and Chernobyl victims is even closer. The Army's Infantry School Quarterly asserted: "A soldier is not a casualty until he requires treatment. Even though he has been exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, he can perform his combat mission until symptoms appear." The 1987 Central Military Commission of the USSR Ministry of Defense declared: "The presence of acute somatic illness and activation of chronic disease in persons who were involved in liquidation (the clean up workers) who do not have acute radiation sickness, the effect of ionizing radiation should not be included in the causal relationship." Denial is a strong tool -- it supports dangerous industries and denies relief to those who are harmed. But these actions are more than denial -- these are lies.
The radiation released from the explosion of the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986 was hundreds of times larger than from the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
While the most apparent human and environmental damage occurred, and continues to occur in the Ukraine, Belarus and European Russia, more than 50 percent of the total radioactivity released spread across the entire northern hemisphere, contaminating some 400 million people, as calculated by the authors.
Children have been most seriously affected -- before the radioactive Chernobyl releases, 80% of children in Belarus and Ukraine were deemed healthy, now in some areas, only 20% of children are considered healthy. Many have poor development, learning disabilities, and endocrine abnormalities. Among other effects, the fallout causes brain damage, with loss of intellect.
While the book documents the health and environmental devastation, the economic and political costs from the Chernobyl catastrophe have been enormous. With so many children physically and mentally stunted, many not even born at the time of the disaster, it will be very difficult for families to earn a living and maintain needed familial bonds, and with so much of the budget diverted to care for sick and disabled people, it will be difficult for citizens to develop an independent society that can make needed political, social and economic decisions. Who will challenge the status quo if most of a society is un-well, poorly educated, and impoverished? There was a collapse of the life expectancy in Russia, plunging to 57-59 for men during the 1990s, now 61 years as of 2009, largely blamed on the "collapse of the Soviet Union'" but what contributed to that collapse?
It is impossible to understand that the U. S., one of the wealthiest countries in the world, could not pass into law provisions to extend medical care to all citizens, rich, poor, young and old, while at the same time some $54 billion has been proposed in loan guarantees to build seven new nuclear power plants, this on top of $18.5 billion in guarantees provided in 2005. With documented deterioration of health, lack of preventive and restorative medical care coupled with loss of economic stability for many citizens, it is a matter of a few years before the U. S. reaches a social calamity.
Who will be the future teachers, musicians, artists, nurses, farmers, trades-men and women, and others needed to make a functional society? Who will have the intellect and energy to challenge the political will of Belarus, currently planning to build a nuclear reactor near to Minsk?
Why should we read this book? Because there are aggressive plans to build new reactors worldwide. The 400+ existing nuclear power reactors release harmful isotopes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a nuclear reactor operates, the radiation causes deterioration in the infrastructure of the plant. There is as yet no place to store radioactive waste, and that includes plutonium and other radioactive elements that will not decay to a safe level until some hundred thousands of years have passed.
Of the many life systems that were studied after the Chernobyl catastrophe -- humans, voles, livestock, birds, fish, plants, forests, mushrooms, bacteria, viruses, etc., all, with few exceptions, were changed by radioactive fallout, many irreversibly. It is a matter of time before we have a new catastrophe. Is this the future we want for life on this planet? Read the book, weep, and then act.
May 31, 2010
Janette D. Sherman, M. D. is an internist and toxicologist. She is the Consulting Editor of Chernobyl -- Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, published by the NY Academy of Science. She worked for the AEC (forerunner of the NRC) at the University of California, Berkeley and did research on radiation and thermal effects at the U. S. Navy Radiological Defense Laboratory. She is the author of Chemical Exposure and Disease and Life's Delicate Balance -- Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer as well as 70+ scientific articles. She is an adjunct professor In the Environmental Institute, Western Michigan University. Her website is: www.janettesherman.com and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2011 Janette D. Sherman M.D.. All Rights Reserved.