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Health

What are the health effects of ionising radiation?

body-radradiation-warning Very high doses of radiation: death within hours or days, due to damage to brain and nerves

High doses: death within weeks, due to damage to the gastrointestinal tract, to the bone marrow, where blood cells are formed.

Lower doses: less severe:radiation sickness (nausea, fatigue and vomiting). Sterility. Some years later – cancer, (especially of thyroid), diseases of digestive organs, bone, & muscle.

Genetic effects: cell damage passed on to later generations

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Fact Sheet on Biological Effects of Radiation – Cancers associated with high dose exposure (greater than 50,000 mrem) include leukemia, breast, bladder, colon, liver, lung, esophagus, ovarian, multiple myeloma, and stomach cancers. Department of Health and Human Services literature also suggests a possible association between ionizing radiation exposure and prostate, nasal cavity/sinuses, pharyngeal and laryngeal, and pancreatic cancer.

The period of time between radiation exposure and the detection of cancer is known as the latent period and can be many years……..the radiation protection community conservatively assumes that any amount of radiation may pose some risk for causing cancer and hereditary effect, and that the risk is higher for higher radiation exposures.A linear, no-threshold (LNT) dose response relationship is used to describe the relationship between radiation dose and the occurrence of cancer.

This dose-response model suggests that any increase in dose, no matter how small, results in an incremental increase in risk. …High radiation doses tend to kill cells, while low doses tend to damage or alter the genetic code (DNA) of irradiated cells……………Genetic effects and the development of cancer are the primary health concerns attributed to radiation exposure. The likelihood of cancer occurring after radiation exposure is about five times greater than a genetic effect (e.g., increased still births, congenital abnormalities, infant mortality, childhood mortality, and decreased birth weight)

Genetic effects are the result of a mutation produced in the reproductive cells of an exposed individual that are passed on to their offspring. These effects may appear in the exposed person’s direct offspring, or may appear several generations later.

We all know something about the harm done to humans and animals by nuclear bombs, depleted uranium weapons, nuclear explosions and other accidents – such as large radiation leaks and spillages. We know that high levels of radiation cause quick death, or fatal illness within weeks.

What is not so obvious is the harm being done to human (and animal) health by “low level” ionising radiation from every stage of the uranium – nuclear cycle.

Low level radioactivity

includes the on-going amount of radiation released from the everyday operation of the uranium industry and of the world’s 433 nuclear power plants, plus leaks and accidents.

Low level radiation causes mutations in genes leading to various cancers. It weakens the immune system, making the body more vulnerable to heart disease and to infections.Genetic effects: cell damage passed on to later generations.

“The everyday releases of low-level radioactivity by nuclear power plants has been found to cause several kinds of health damage including premature births, congenital defects, infant mortality, mental retardation, heart ailments, arthritis, diabetes, allergies, asthma, cancer, genetic damage and chronic fatigue syndrome. It has been linked to previously unknown infectious diseases, and the resurgence of old ones by damaging the developing white blood cells originating in the bone marrow and thus weakening the immune system” -Sara Shannon,author of Technology’s Curse

DISEASES ACKNOWLEDGED BY THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT TO BE CAUSED BY PARTICIPATION IN ATMOSPHERIC TESTING OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS, Paul Langley’s Nuclear History Blog, 2 Jan 2012

Leukaemia (other than chronic Iymphocytic leukaemia)

Cancer of the Thyroid

Cancer of the Breast

Cancer of the Pharynx

Cancer of the Oesophagus

Cancer of the Stomach

Cancer of the small intestine

Cancer of the Pancreas

Multiple Myeloma

Lymphomas (except Hodgkinís disease)

Cancer of the Bile Ducts

Cancer of the Gall Bladder

Cancer of the liver (except if cirrhosis or hepatitis indicated)

Cancer of the urinary tract, which also translates to the bladder and kidneys

Cancer of the salivary glands

Incorporated into public law 100-321, 20.5.88.

“This law gives US atomic exservicemen due recognition for the unusual service they rendered, and is an expression of gratitude of the American people toward their atomic veterans The law enables Veteran Affairs benefits to flow to US atomic veterans who are afflicted. The US government m relation to nuclear veterans considers the nature of service plus the development of any of the above diseases sufficient cause to quality for Veteran Benefits regardless of recorded dose rates received. All US nuclear test service personnel are officially Veterans.”   http://nuclearhistory.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/diseases-acknowledged-by-the-united-states-government-to-be-caused-by-participation-in-atmospheric-testing-of-nuclear-weapons/

URANIUM MINING AND HEALTH

Mining is a dangerous industry.  The presence of radioactive substances makes it even more so.  Despite assurances and safeguards, the nuclear industry cannot stop workers from exposure, illness and even death due to the nature of the element they are working with.
There are also many instances of corporatenegligence and human error leading  to workers accidents, and the nature of their work means that many insurance companies may refuse to give them personal or health insurance

The three main dangers to workers are risk of inhaling radon gas, inhaling Uranium dust and external radiation exposure.

Mining  uranium   and mineral  sands creates  radioactive dust and radon gas. When breathed into the lungs, the dust and gas release their radiation at close range where it does the most damage to the lining of the lung and increases the risk of developing cancer. Radiation exposure can affect men and women’s reproductive health and is also associated with lower testosterone levels, chromosomal abnormality, skin, lung, kidney and bone cancer and bronchitis and emphysema.

workers are still expected to tolerate a higher level of exposure than others, between 20 and 5 mSv, compared to 0.1 for everyone else.

Risks to the wider community
Risk is not confined to workers alone. Uranium mining continually increases the l e v e l   o f   b a c k g r o u n d   r a d i a t i on   t h e community is exposed to. People’s skin, clothes and vehicles can be contaminated through being physically near the source of radioactive material.
Risks are also posed by other stages of the nuclear industry including nuclear power, transport , storage of waste and of course, weapons. Many accidents, leaks, misplaced ‘orphaned sources’, and intentional releases of radiation emitting sources occur every year…
The insurance industry does not insure against any incidents of any nuclear activity.  According to five Australian insurance companies surveyed by NFQ, insuring against loss, damage, injury or death that occurs as a result of radioactivity or nuclear activity would set the risk too high. …
http://www.nuclearfreequeensland.org/pdf/NFQuraniumhealth.pdf

Radiation risks to uranium miners Dr Peter Karamoskos There is a well established link between uranium  mining and lung cancer. In 2009, the International  Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP)  reported that radon gas (a radioactive gas present  in underground uranium mines) delivers twice the  dose of radiation to humans than they had previously
thought.

While the ICRP is in the process of reassessing  the permissible levels, previous dose estimates to miners can be approximately doubled to reflect the  real lung cancer hazard. The Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation VI report (1999) reviewed eleven studies covering a total of  60,000 underground uranium miners. The report  found an increasing frequency of lung cancer, directly  proportional to the cumulative amount of radon the  miners had been exposed to.

In addition to exposure to radon gas, uranium miners  are also exposed to gamma radiation directly from the radioactive ore. At the Olympic Dam underground  uranium and copper mine, the total annual dose per  miner is approximately 6 millisieverts (mSv), of which  2−4 mSv are due to radon gas (allowing for the new  ICRP risk estimate for radon) and the balance due  to gamma radiation. Workers at the smelter at the  Olympic Dam mine receive annual doses that may  exceed 12mSv.

The Olympic Dam doses are typical of modern mine  practices. The average miner at Olympic Dam is young  and stays on average five years at the site. A calculation  of the additional risk of cancer to uranium miners  indicates that the average miner at Olympic Dam has a  1 in 670 chance of contracting cancer, most likely lung  cancer, as a result of radiation exposure at work. Are these risks properly communicated to miners so that  they can make informed decisions about working in such environments?

Most modern uranium mines have air extraction  systems to make sure radon levels remain low and  miners are given personal protective equipment  including masks to filter out the radioactive  particulates. However, many underground miners
find the masks extremely uncomfortable, especially  where it is hot. It is estimated that around 50% of  underground uranium miners in Australia do not use  their masks, putting them at greater risk of lung cancer.

Cancer in nuclear industry workers  Real-time monitoring of radiation exposure of nuclear  industry workers has been occurring since the 1940s.  More than one million workers have been employed in  this industry since its beginning. However, studies have  often investigated small groups of workers making  it difficult to estimate precisely the risks associated with low levels of exposure.

Risk estimates from these  studies are variable, ranging from no risk, to risks similar  to or greater than those seen in atomic bomb survivors. In 2005 the results of a 15-country study of nuclear industry workers (excluding mining) was published
− the largest study of nuclear industry workers ever  conducted. The study found a statistically significant  increased risk of cancer and leukaemia in nuclear  industry workers, even at low dose. http://www.mapw.org.au/files/downloads/Nuclear-power-uranium-mining-&-public-health_MAPW-Factsheet.pdf

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