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Harm to astronauts’ brains from space radiation

Space Radiation Will Damage Mars Astronauts’ Brains, Space.com By Mike Wall 9 Aug 19, Space radiation will take a toll on astronauts’ brains during the long journey to Mars, a new study suggests.

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August 10, 2019 Posted by | deaths by radiation, radiation, space travel | Leave a comment

Radiation research facility opens to public on anniversary of Hiroshima bombing to raise awareness of effects

Radiation research facility opens to public on anniversary of Hiroshima bombing to raise awareness of effects, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/08/05/national/radiation-research-facility-opens-public-anniversary-hiroshima-bombing/#.XUiq5m8zbIU  

KYODOm A Japan-U.S. joint research organization opened one of its radiation research facilities in Hiroshima to the public Monday to raise awareness of the effects of radiation on human health, ahead of the anniversary on Tuesday of the atomic bombing of the city.Although the Hiroshima facility will only be open to the public for two days, the Radiation Effects Research Foundation will open another research facility in the city of Nagasaki on Thursday and Friday to coincide with the city’s Aug. 9 A-bomb anniversary.

This marks the 25th annual public opening of the facility in Minami Ward, Hiroshima. It aims to share research content and help the public better understand the health effects of radiation. The research facility has been collecting data from hibakusha since the institute was established in 1975, when it succeeded the research efforts of its predecessor, the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission.

Some of the exhibition booths explain the risks of radiation, as well as the role of blood. Visitors can also experiment with freezing cells in liquid nitrogen for preservation, which tends to be popular with children when the experiment is successful.

“The (facility was) full of things I didn’t know were there, like health research on second generation hibakusha. Even as a Hiroshima resident, I learned a lot,” said Sanae Yamamoto, a 41-year-old housewife from Asakita Ward in the city who visited the facility with her children.

August 6, 2019 Posted by | Japan, radiation | Leave a comment

Major problem for astronauts – radiation damages mood and memory?

August 6, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, space travel | 2 Comments

Sunken Soviet Sub leaking high levels of radiation, Norwegian researchers say

August 6, 2019 Posted by | environment, radiation, Russia | Leave a comment

Radiation effects on the “downwinders” and others close to nuclear weapons tests

The fallout of uncertainty in nuclear test communities   https://www.hcn.org/articles/nuclear-energy-the-fallout-of-uncertainty-in-nuclear-test-communities  

For downwinders of bomb testing, plans for compensation to redress past harms makes for tricky politics.   Aria Alamalhodaei Aug. 2, 2019,   The atomic bomb was born in the desert. In the early hours of July 16, 1945, after a spate of bad weather, a 20-kiloton plutonium-based nuke referred to as “the gadget” detonated near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Firsthand testimonies of the test, codenamed Trinity, converge on the uncanny axis of awe and dread. The Manhattan Project’s Chief of Field Operations, General Thomas Farrell, wrote that “the strong, sustained, awesome roar … warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous.”

The bomb produced a massive cloud column that drifted in several directions, dusting large swaths of the surrounding region with radioactive snow – fallout that settled on buildings, plants, and animals, and that continued to permeate the air as invisible particulate in the weeks and months that followed. Five years later, the Nevada Test Site was established to continue the work that Trinity set alight.
Although the mushroom cloud became the icon of American nuclear activity in the 20th century, the harms of these bombs did not fade with their dimming fireballs. No group in the U.S. understands this better than the downwinders, communities throughout the American Southwest and beyond who were exposed to the fallout of the military’s domestic nuclear test program.
In 1990, the U.S. government passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which provided financial remuneration to downwinders who had contracted cancer or other illnesses linked to radiation exposure. (The law also provided compensation for certain on-site test participants and uranium miners.) As of April 2018, the program had awarded more than $2.2 billion to some 34,370 claimants.
As the law was written, however, only downwinders in specific counties in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada were eligible for compensation. Even residents of New Mexico, the site of the Trinity test, were excluded. Since the law was passed, studies and fallout reconstructions have suggested that the health impacts of the nuclear tests likely extend to areas as far away as Idaho, Montana and Guam. Residents in those far-flung locales have provided vivid testimonies of glowing duststrange maladies befalling livestock, and cancer clusters ravaging whole families.
For more than a decade, civic groups have lobbied lawmakers, unsuccessfully, to open RECA to a broader population of downwinders. That Congress has so far balked at those proposals is a testament to many factors; legislative decisions are informed not only by science but by moral and political calculus. But lawmakers’ inability to come to terms on who suffered, and on who deserves reparations for that suffering, points to a little discussed weak spot of modern politics: its uneasy relationship with uncertainty.
RECA’S COMPACT DELIMITATION OF “affected areas” was based on dose estimates produced by the Department of Energy’s Off-Site Radiation Exposure Review Project — a complicated calculation that drew from atmospheric transport models, reconstructions of fallout patterns, and reports of dosimeters and other radiation recorders. The bill was amended once, in 2000, to include a larger population of uranium workers and to expand the time frame, eligible diseases, and geographic locations covered. Two years later, in response to a congressional mandate, the Health Resources and Services Administration commissioned the National Research Council (NRC) to review the RECA program and determine if additional populations should be covered. Their final report was published in 2005. Based in part on mortality and disease-incidence data on atomic bomb survivors in Japan, uranium miners in the U.S., and Utah schoolchildren exposed to fallout from the Nevada Test Site, the committee concluded that in most cases involving downwinders who had been excluded from RECA, “it is unlikely that exposure to radiation from fallout was a substantial cause to developing cancer.”
But radiation epidemiology is a science of uncertainty, and tracing a person’s illness to a single exposure event can be challenging even in seemingly clear-cut cases. Although high doses of radiation are known to lead to disease and death, the effects of lower doses are far less predictable. Moreover, an individual’s radiation dose — the amount of radiation that he or she internalizes — depends on the person’s age, sex, diet, and pre-existing risk factors; weather conditions; and the characteristics of the nuclear event itself. Extrapolating results from one nuclear event to another, as the NRC study did, is bound to introduce some error.
Consider the Trinity test, which has been consistently ignored by lawmakers. According to the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment (LAHDRA), conducted in 2010 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, previous efforts to determine exposures from Trinity ignored the specific characteristics that distinguished it from all other subsequent tests. Unlike tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site, the Trinity “gadget” detonated only 100 feet from the ground. At this height, more organic material would’ve been swept into the explosion and returned to the earth as fallout. Another compounding factor was the relative inefficiency of the device. Of the 13 pounds of fissile material contained in the device, only about 2.6 pounds exploded; the rest was dispersed into the environment, where it remained radioactive.
The LAHDRA report also faulted previous studies for failing to adequately account for internal exposure, caused by the inhalation or ingestion of radioactive material. Research shows that internal exposure is significantly more harmful to the human body than the external exposure that occurs, say, when X-rays or other high-energy radiation penetrate the skin. Internal dosages are influenced by occupation, diet, local environment, and other sociodemographic factors. Any assessment that does not account for those factors is incomplete. And, according to the LAHDRA report, no assessment has properly accounted for the internal radiation dosages experienced by residents near the Trinity site. 
 
In the case of the Trinity test, there’s reason to believe that sociodemographic factors would have been significant. During the 1940s, New Mexican communities were largely agrarian; most people were farmers or ranchers who grew their food, hunted and fished, and drank water collected from cisterns or holding ponds. If those sources were contaminated, residents would likely have been at an increased risk for radiation-linked illnesses.
LAST SUMMER, MEMBERS OF THE NEW MEXICO community organization Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC), along with representatives from the Navajo Nation, argued in a Senate Judiciary hearing for amending RECA. Stated TBDC co-founder Tina Cordova, “The New Mexico downwinders are the collateral damage that resulted from the development and testing of the first atomic bomb.” 
Their appeals appear to have fallen on receptive ears. This March, a bipartisan coalition of U.S. Senators, including New Mexico Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, reintroduced Senate Bill 947 (S. 947), “Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019.” It is the most recent in a long line of bills that attempt to expand the RECA’s coverage. Among other changes, it seeks coverage for downwinders in New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Guam. A companion was introduced in the House in July.

Meanwhile, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is currently conducting a three-phase study on the diet and lifestyles of mid-century New Mexicans. The models generated in this study may help scientists draw firmer links between present day cancer cases and the Trinity test. In an email, NCI spokesperson Michael Levin confirmed that the results of the study are anticipated to be published in late 2019.

Like other epidemiological studies of its size, the NCI’s study has been expensive to run and frustratingly time-intensive. And time is precisely what many downwinders feel they don’t have. More than 70 years has passed since the Trinity test. Many downwinders have passed away or are battling cancers and other diseases. Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to demonstrate that a disease was caused by nuclear fallout rather than, say, cigarettes or bad luck.

The government, meanwhile, plods along at its own pace, unconstrained by the length of a single lifetime or the distressing span between a diagnosis and its terminal conclusion. In response to a news article about S.947 posted to the Idaho Downwinders public Facebook page, one commenter wrote, “The government are just waiting for all of us to die off so they won’t have to be bothered with it.”
In its 2005 review of the RECA law, the National Research Council stated that, although scientific recommendations were meant to inform policy, the “attendant policy decisions must come from the larger body of citizenry” and “applying this new scientific knowledge may require additional societal value-based decisions.” This is particularly true of probability-based information on cancer epidemiology. When there is simply not enough data available to definitively estimate risk, the question of compensating the citizens who live in the long shadow of the nuclear testing era becomes a moral one: How much uncertainty can we stand?

August 3, 2019 Posted by | radiation, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

New research: 2017 radioactive cloud traced to an unacknowledged nuclear accident in southern Russia

Mysterious Radiation Cloud Over Europe Traced to Secret Russian Nuclear Accident   https://www.livescience.com/66050-radiation-cloud-secret-russian-nuclear-accident.html  By Tom Metcalfe, Live Science Contributor | July 29, 2019 A vast cloud of nuclear radiation that spreadover continental Europe in 2017 has been traced to an unacknowledged nuclear accident in southern Russia, according to an international team of scientists.

The experts say the cloud of radiation detected over Europe in late September 2017 could only have been caused by a nuclear fuel-reprocessing accident at the Mayak Production Association, a nuclear facility in the Chelyabinsk region of the Ural Mountains in Russia, sometime between noon on Sept. 26 and noon on Sept. 27.

Russia confirmed that a cloud of nuclear radiation was detected over the Urals at the time, but the country never acknowledged any responsibility for a radiation leak, nor has it ever admitted that a nuclear accident took place at Mayak in 2017. [Top 10 Greatest Explosions Ever]

The lead author of the new research, nuclear chemist Georg Steinhauser of Leibniz University in Hanover, Germany, said that more than 1,300 atmospheric measurements from around the world showed that between 250 and 400 terabecquerels of radioactive ruthenium-106 had been released during that time.

Ruthenium-106 is a radioactive isotope of ruthenium, meaning that it has a different number of neutrons in its nucleus than the naturally occurring element has. The isotope can be produced as a byproduct during nuclear fission of uranium-235 atoms.

Although the resulting cloud of nuclear radiation was diluted enough that it caused no harm to people beneath it, the total radioactivity was between 30 and 100 times the level of radiation released after the Fukushima accident in Japan in 2011, Steinhauser told Live Science.

The research was published today (July 29) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The cloud of radiation in September 2017 was detected in central and eastern Europe, Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and even the Caribbean.

Only radioactive ruthenium-106 — a byproduct of nuclear fission, with a half-life of 374 days — was detected in the cloud — Steinhauser said.

During the reprocessing of nuclear fuel — when radioactive plutonium and uranium are separated from spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power reactors — ruthenium-106 is typically separated out and placed into long-term storage with other radioactive waste byproducts, he said.

That meant that any massive release of ruthenium could only come from an accident during nuclear fuel reprocessing; and the Mayak facility was one of only a few places in the world that carries out that sort of reprocessing, he said.

Advanced meteorological studies made as part of this new research showed that the radiation cloud could only have come from the Mayak facility in Russia. “They have done a very thorough analysis and they have pinned down Mayak — there is no doubt about it,” he said.

The accident came a little more than 60 years since a nuclear accident at Mayak in 1957 caused one of the largest releases of radiation in the region’s history, second only to the 1986 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which is now in the Ukraine. [Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster 25 Years Later (Infographic)]

In the 1957 accident, known as the Kyshtym disaster after a nearby town, a tank of liquid nuclear waste at the Mayak facility exploded, spreading radioactive particles over the site and causing a radioactive plume of smoke that stretched for hundreds of miles.

The study showed that the 2017 accident at Mayak was unlikely to have been caused by a relatively simple release of radioactive gas, Steinhauser said. Rather, a fire, or even an explosion, might have exposed workers at the plant to harmful levels of radiation, he added.

Russia has not acknowledged that any accident occurred at the Mayak facility, maybe because plutonium is made there for thermonuclear weapons. However, Russia had established a commission to investigate the radioactive cloud, Steinhauser said.

The Russian commission ruled that there was not enough evidence to determine if a nuclear accident was responsible for the cloud. But Steinhauser and his team hope it may look again at this decision in the light of the new research.

“They came to the conclusion that they need more data,” he said. “And so we feel like, okay, now you can have all of our data — but we would like to see yours as well.”

Any information from Russia about an accident at the Mayak facility would help scientists refine their research, instead of having to rely only on measurements of radioactivity from around the world, Steinhauser said.

The international team of scientists involved are keenly interested in learning more about its causes. “When everybody else is concerned, we are almost cheering for joy, because we have something to measure,” he said. “But it is our responsibility to learn from this accident. This is not about blaming Russia, but it is about learning our lessons,” he said.

July 30, 2019 Posted by | incidents, radiation, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Problematic issue of cremation of radioactive bodies

A Dead Man Was Cremated in Arizona Without Anyone Realising He Was Radioactive, Science Alert PETER DOCKRILL, 28 JUL 2019

In 2017, a 69-year-old man with pancreatic cancer went to hospital with abnormally low blood pressure. Sadly, he died only two days later, and his remains were cremated.

What nobody at the hospital or the crematorium knew, was that this hadn’t been the man’s only recent trip to hospital. ust one day earlier, in fact, he had been injected with a radioactive compound at another hospital to treat his tumour – and when his mortal remains were incinerated, this radioactive and potentially dangerous dose of lutetium Lu 177 dotatate was still inside his body.

This alarming case, reported in a research letter published in February this year, illustrates the collateral risks potentially posed by on average 18.6 million nuclear medicine procedures involving radiopharmaceuticals performed in the US every year.

While rules regulate how these drugs are administered to living patients, the picture can become less clear when those patients die, thanks to a patchwork of different laws and standards in each state – not to mention situations like the 69-year-old man, whose radioactive status simply slipped through the cracks.

“Radiopharmaceuticals present a unique and often overlooked postmortem safety challenge,” researchers from the Mayo Clinic explained in a case note.

“Cremating an exposed patient volatilises the radiopharmaceutical, which can then be inhaled by workers (or released into the adjacent community) and result in greater exposure than from a living patient.”……..

Given more than half of all Americans eventually get cremated, postmortem management of individuals who receive radioactive drugs is an area the US health system needs to work on, the researchers say.

This includes better ways of evaluating radioactivity in deceased patients (prior to them being cremated), and also standardising ways of notifying crematoriums about their clients.

After all, nobody really has any idea how often this is happening.

As nuclear scientist Marco Kaltofen from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, who wasn’t involved with the research, told BuzzFeed News: “They only happened to catch this one case because normally they don’t look.”

The findings were reported in JAMAhttps://www.sciencealert.com/a-dead-man-was-cremated-in-arizona-without-anyone-knowing-he-was-radioactive

July 29, 2019 Posted by | radiation, USA | Leave a comment

New research shows how low dose ionising radiation promotes cancer

Low doses of radiation promote cancer-capable cells, Science Daily 

New research in mice helps to understand the risks around exposure to low doses of radiation, such as CT scans and X-rays

Date
July 18, 2019
Source:
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
Summary:
New research finds that low doses of radiation equivalent to three CT scans, which are considered safe, give cancer-capable cells a competitive advantage over normal cells.

Low doses of radiation equivalent to three CT scans, which are considered safe, give cancer-capable cells a competitive advantage over normal cells in healthy tissue, scientists have discovered. Researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge studied the effects of low doses of radiation in the esophagus of mice.

The team found that low doses of radiation increase the number of cells with mutations in p53, a well-known genetic change associated with cancer. However, giving the mice an antioxidant before radiation promoted the growth of healthy cells, which outcompeted and replaced the p53 mutant cells.

The results, published today (18 July) in Cell Stem Cell show that low doses of radiation promote the spread of cancer-capable cells in healthy tissue. Researchers recommend that this risk should be considered in assessing radiation safety. The study also offers the possibility of developing non-toxic preventative measures to cut the risk of developing cancer by bolstering our healthy cells to outcompete and eradicate cancer-capable cells……..

Low doses of radiation equivalent to three CT scans, which are considered safe, give cancer-capable cells a competitive advantage over normal cells in healthy tissue, scientists have discovered. Researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge studied the effects of low doses of radiation in the esophagus of mice.

The team found that low doses of radiation increase the number of cells with mutations in p53, a well-known genetic change associated with cancer. However, giving the mice an antioxidant before radiation promoted the growth of healthy cells, which outcompeted and replaced the p53 mutant cells.

The results, published today (18 July) in Cell Stem Cell show that low doses of radiation promote the spread of cancer-capable cells in healthy tissue. Researchers recommend that this risk should be considered in assessing radiation safety. The study also offers the possibility of developing non-toxic preventative measures to cut the risk of developing cancer by bolstering our healthy cells to outcompete and eradicate cancer-capable cells…….

Dr Kasumi Murai, an author from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “Giving mice an antioxidant before exposing them to low doses of radiation gave healthy cells the extra boost needed to fight against the mutant cells in the esophagus and make them disappear. However, we don’t know the effect this therapy would have in other tissues — it could help cancer-capable cells elsewhere become stronger. What we do know is that long term use of antioxidants alone is not effective in preventing cancer in people, according to other studies.” … https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190718150933.htm

July 20, 2019 Posted by | radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Future space travellers will be, in reality, radiation guinea pigs

Space radiation hasn’t contributed to astronaut mortality — yet, study shows

An analysis of all living and dead astronauts and cosmonauts shows that radiation hasn’t contributed meaningfully to their mortality rates. Astronomy, By Korey Haynes , July 5, 2019 “ …………   they found no trend in the deaths suggesting any common cause, meaning radiation didn’t play a major role in the health outcomes of the astronauts and cosmonauts they studied.

Of course, this doesn’t mean humans are in the clear.

“We would expect that at some level of dose there should be adverse health effects,” Reynolds says. “We keep getting the answer ‘no.’ This doesn’t mean radiation isn’t harmful or greater doses wouldn’t be. But so far the doses have been low enough that we don’t see anything.”

That’s probably because the vast majority of space farers so far have spent most or all of their time in Earth orbit, where Earth’s magnetic fields still protect them from the majority of harmful space radiation. Only those 24 astronauts who ventured to the Moon went beyond Earth’s radiation protection, and they stayed for just a few days.

Reynolds says that it’s difficult to draw meaningful results from that tiny sub-sample of people.

By contrast, a Mars mission might last multiple years, and would take place almost entirely beyond Earth’s shielding.

Other researchers are looking at alternative ways of testing the dangers of radiation exposure. But it’s possible that the next round of human space explorers will be guinea pigs, much like the first generation, and only time will tell how radiation has affected them.http://www.astronomy.com/news/2019/07/space-radiation-hasnt-contributed-to-astronaut-mortality–yet-study-shows

July 18, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, space travel | Leave a comment

A heightened solar cycle, by chance, reduced the exposure of Apollo astronauts to space radiation

Space radiation: the Apollo crews were extremely lucky  The Conversation, Jim Wild
Professor of Space Physics, Lancaster UniversityJuly 17, 2019   “………..  There is potentially harmful radiation in space. So how did the astronauts survive it?

The term “radiation” is used to describe energy that is emitted in the form of electromagnetic waves and/or particles. Humans can perceive some forms of electromagnetic radiation: visible light can be seen and infrared radiation (heat) can be felt.

Meanwhile, other varieties of radiation such as radio waves, X-rays and gamma rays are not visible and require special equipment to be observed. Worryingly, when high energy (ionising) radiation encounters matter, it can cause changes at the atomic level, including in our bodies.

There are a several sources of ionising radiation in space. The sun continuously pours out electromagnetic radiation across all wavelengths – especially as visible, infrared and ultraviolet radiation. Occasionally, enormous explosions on the solar surface known as solar flares release massive amounts of X-rays and gamma rays into space, as well as energetic electrons and protons (which make up the atomic nucleus along with neutrons). These events can pose a hazard to astronauts and their equipment even at distances as far from the sun as Earth, the moon and Mars.

Potentially dangerous radiation in space also originates from outside our solar system. Galactic cosmic rays are high energy, electrically charged atomic fragments that travel at nearly the speed of light and arrive from all directions in space.

On Earth, we are protected from most of this ionising radiation. The Earth’s strong magnetic field forms the magnetosphere, a protective bubble that diverts most dangerous radiation away, while the Earth’s thick atmosphere absorbs the rest.

But above the atmosphere, the magnetosphere traps energetic subatomic particles in two radiation regions. These “Van Allen belts” comprise an inner and outer torus of electrically charged particles.

Lucky escape

So how did NASA solve the problem of crossing the Van Allen belts? The short answer is they didn’t. To get to the moon, a spacecraft needs to be travelling quickly to climb far enough away from the Earth such that it can be captured by the moon’s gravity. The trans-lunar orbit that the Apollo spacecraft followed from the Earth to the moon took them through the inner and outer belts in just a few hours.

Although the aluminium skin of the Apollo spacecraft needed to be thin to be lightweight, it would have offered some protection. Models of the radiation belts developed in the run-up to the Apollo flights indicated that the passage through the radiation belts would not pose a significant threat to astronaut health. And, sure enough, documents from the period show that monitoring badges worn by the crews and analysed after the missions indicated that the astronauts typically received doses roughly less than that received during a standard CT scan of your chest.

But that is not the end of the story. To get to the moon and safely back home, the Apollo astronauts not only had to cross the Van Allen belts, but also the quarter of a million miles between the Earth and the moon – a flight that typically took around three days each way.

They also needed to operate safely while in orbit around the moon and on the lunar surface. During the Apollo missions, the spacecraft were outside the Earth’s protective magnetosphere for most of their flight. As such, they and their crews were vulnerable to unpredictable solar flares and events and the steady flux of galactic cosmic rays.

The crewed Apollo flights actually coincided with the height of a solar cycle, the periodic waxing and waning of activity that occurs every 11 years. Given that solar flares and solar energetic particle events are more common during times of heightened solar activity, this might seem like a cavalier approach to astronaut safety.

There is no doubt that the political imperative in the 1960s to put US astronauts on the moon “in this decade” was the primary driving factor in the mission timing, but there are counterintuitive benefits to spaceflight during solar activity maxima. The increased strength of the sun’s magnetic field that permeates the solar system acts like an umbrella – shielding the Earth, moon and planets from galactic cosmic rays and therefore lessening the impact on astronaut radiation doses.  https://theconversation.com/space-radiation-the-apollo-crews-were-extremely-lucky-120339

July 18, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, space travel, USA | Leave a comment

Chernobyl radiation

The Real Chernobyl: Q&A With a Radiation Exposure Expert, UCSF, 

Ed note:  This article considers only external radiation emitters – fails to consider internal emitters

By Nicoletta Lanese  17 July 19, The Emmy-nominated HBO mini-series “Chernobyl,” which is a dramatized account of the 1986 nuclear power plant disaster, has rekindled conversation about the accident, its subsequent cleanup and the long-term impacts on people living near the power plant.

UC San Francisco’s Lydia Zablotska, MD, PhD, grew up in Ukraine, trained as physician in Belarus, and has studied the long-term health impacts of radiation exposure on the Chernobyl cleanup workers, local children and others in the region. Her research helped uncover the connection between radiation exposure, thyroid conditions and leukemia, and remains relevant to global health today.

We talked with her about the real-life health impacts from the disaster portrayed in the HBO miniseries. The following answers have been edited for length and clarity.

What kind of radiation were people exposed to at Chernobyl?

The first responders, including firefighters and nuclear workers who tried to put out the multiple fires and prevent the explosion of other reactors at the nuclear power plant, were exposed to large doses of gamma radiation. Gamma radiation originates during the decay of radioactive isotopes of uranium or plutonium used as a nuclear fuel in nuclear power plants. As a result of decay, packets of electromagnetic radiation, which consist of high-energy photons, are emitted and could penetrate body tissues and cause damage to cells and their genetic material. Subsequently, DNA mutations could lead to the development of cancer.

The miniseries shows some workers dying instantly from acute radiation syndrome – what symptoms did they really experience?

The latest report from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation found 134 first responders who were diagnosed with acute radiation syndrome (ARS) after the Chernobyl accident. Of these, 28 died in the first four months, but not instantaneously. Then 19 more died over the next 20 years. But the majority of these survived and lived a long life after that. There were no cases of ARS among the general public living in cities and villages around the Chernobyl power plant.

Large doses of radiation could affect a number of systems in the body that are necessary for survival. Patients with ARS could develop a bone marrow syndrome, which suppresses their immunity, or a gastrointestinal syndrome, which could lead to damage to the lining of the intestines and associated infection, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance. Then, a couple days later, the circulatory system collapses so people start having blood volume issues and so forth. The whole body is essentially collapsing.

Can those exposed to intense radiation exposure “pass on” their radioactivity to others, as the HBO show suggests? 

There are types of radiation where human bodies could retain radioactive particles and remain radioactive over time, but this is not the type that was seen at Chernobyl. After gamma radiation has passed through the body, the person is no longer radioactive and can’t expose other people.

Based on what we know, at Chernobyl, there were also no effects on children who were exposed to radiation in utero.

How does radiation exposure relate to thyroid conditions?

We conducted two studies of thyroid conditions in children who lived at the time of the Chernobyl accident in affected areas in Ukraine and Belarus. We confirmed that the particular type of radiation in Chernobyl, radioactive iodine, could cause thyroid cancer. Unexpectedly, we also showed that radiation to the thyroid gland from ingesting radioactive iodine within two months after the Chernobyl accident by children and adolescents could lead to development of non-cancer thyroid diseases, such as thyroid follicular adenoma, thyroid benign nodules, and hypothyroidism.

We also showed that the youngest children were at the highest risk for developing these diseases. Children’s thyroid glands are very active and act as a sponge for iodine, because our body needs iodine. But our bodies cannot distinguish between dietary iodine, from salt or fish, and radioactive iodine. After the explosion of the nuclear reactor, parts of the core were dispersed in clouds and carried by the prevailing winds. This is how Belarus, which was in the path of winds in the first days after the accident, got really large doses. One of the most contaminated products was milk from pastured cows, mostly consumed by children.

What about leukemia?

We did a study of cleanup workers in Ukraine and confirmed that gamma radiation causes leukemia, as was found in atomic bomb survivors in Japan. Our truly unique finding was that radiation exposure can cause many types of leukemia, not just a select few. In particular, we showed that radiation doses of gamma radiation were associated with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the most prevalent type of leukemia in adult, Caucasian men. CLL was not increased in the study of atomic bomb survivors, but as our group at UCSF reported in a later study, CLL is very rare in Japan, so this finding could have been missed. ……  https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2019/07/414976/real-chernobyl-qa-radiation-exposure-expert 

July 18, 2019 Posted by | radiation, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

U.S. Bill: he Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019

RECA bill calls for congressional apology to victims of radiation exposure,   http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/114180-reca-bill-calls-for-congressional-apology-to-victims-of-radiation-exposure18 Jul 2019, By Mar-Vic Cagurangan – For Variety  

HAGÅTÑA — The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019, officially introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, includes a congressional apology to individuals exposed to radiation while either working in or living near uranium mines or downwind from nuclear weapon test sites.

The bill, introduced by New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Lujan and cosponsored by Guam Delegate Michael San Nicolas, would expand the coverage of the RECA program to include Guam and the Northern Marianas.

The RECA program is set to expire in 2022. The bill, if enacted into law, would extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Trust Fund until 2045.

Other jurisdictions covered by the proposed RECA expansion are New Mexico, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Texas, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, South Dakota, North Dakota and Nevada.

“Tens of thousands of individuals, including miners, transporters, and other employees who worked directly in uranium mines, along with communities located near test sites for nuclear weapons, were exposed during the mid-1900s to dangerous radiation that has left communities struggling from cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses,” states a press release from Lujan’s office.

The RECA amendment legislation provides health and monetary compensations for individuals who were exposed to high levels of radiation that caused sickness, cancer and deaths in identified jurisdictions.

A similar bill was introduced by Sen. Mike Crapo in the U.S. Senate.

The 35th Guam Legislature is scheduled today, Thursday, to hold a public hearing on Resolution 94-35, supporting the passage of Crapo’s S. 947.

The bill does not include the CNMI.

In August 2018, CNMI Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said the Northern Marianas should also be considered “downwinders.”

“Perhaps, because the [Northern] Marianas was not represented in Congress in 2005, we were not included in a congressionally mandated study of how fallout from nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands may have harmed people on downwind islands,” Sablan said in an August 2018 letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. “I think that inequity needs to be addressed.”

July 18, 2019 Posted by | employment, politics, radiation, USA | Leave a comment

CANADA: A generation of children were given radiation treatment without warning of cancer risks  

CANADA: A generation of children were given radiation treatment without warning of cancer risks  https://www.thoroldnews.com/local-news/canada-a-generation-of-children-were-given-radiation-treatment-without-warning-of-cancer-risks-1581753m 14 July 19

No systemic investigation into how many children underwent radiation treatment in Canada for benign conditions has been done thus far

This article, written by Itai BavliUniversity of British Columbia, originally appeared on The Conversation .

On February 9, 2001, the Vancouver Sun published an article about Nancy Riva who lost her two brothers and was diagnosed with cancer as a result of thymus radiation treatment they received as children — in the belief that this would prevent sudden infant death.

Riva and her brothers were born in Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) in the late 1940s and underwent radiation treatment at the hospital as babies.

Radiation treatment for benign illnesses (that is not for treating cancer), like Riva’s inflamed thymus gland, was a standard medical practice worldwide during the 1940 and 1950s. The treatment was considered to be safe and effective for non-cancerous conditions such as acne and ringworm as well as deafness, birthmarks, infertility, enlargement of the thymus gland and more.

In the early 1970s, medical research confirmed the long-standing suspicion that children and young adults treated with radiation for benign diseases, during the 1940s and 1950s, showed an alarming tendency to develop thyroid cancer and other ailments as adults.

In our recent paper, published in the American Journal of Public Health, Shifra Shvarts and I have explored how health authorities in the United States responded to the discovery of the late health effects of radiation treatment.

Over two million people are estimated to have been treated with radiation in the U.S. for benign conditions. We show how an ethical decision at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago in 1973 to locate and examine former patients, who had been treated with radiation in childhood, led to a nationwide campaign launched in July 1977 by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) — to warn the medical community and public about the late effects of radiation treatment in childhood for a variety of diseases.

U.S. campaign promotes thyroid checkups

Media coverage of the Chicago hospital’s campaign had a snowball effect that prompted more medical institutions to follow suit (first in the Chicago area and later in other parts of the U.S.), resulting in the NCI’s campaign.

Hundreds of thousands of pamphlets were distributed in shopping centres across the U.S., asking people who had undergone radiation treatment to go to their family doctor for a thyroid checkup. In addition, television presenters opened their programs with warnings; notices were published in newspapers.

Meanwhile in Canada, an unknown number of patients, like Riva and her brothers, were treated with radiation. Interviewed by the Vancouver Sun in 2001, Riva wanted to raise public awareness about this issue, encouraging people who might have been treated with radiation as children to have their thyroid checked.

According to VGH’s officials, quoted in the article, locating former patients was logistically impossible. Spokeswoman Tara Wilson told Vancouver Sun reporter Pamela Fayerman:

“Under the Hospital Act, records only have to be maintained for 10 years after a patient’s last hospital admission, so it’s unlikely we would have these birth records, although people can still phone the hospital to check.”

No systematic investigation in Canada

Riva’s story raises the question of why the Canadian health authorities did not launch a campaign to warn the public, as happened in the United States. Early detection of thyroid cancer saved lives.

The U.S. campaign was known in Canada. On July 14, 1977 a Globe and Mail article titled, “U.S. increasing efforts to warn million potential cancer victims,” described the national program to alert the public of the late health effects of radiation treatment.

Moreover, in an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine in February 1978, two University of Toronto professors of medicine, Paul Walfish and Robert Volpé, discussed the long-term risk of therapeutic radiation and described the efforts made by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare to educate the American public about the late effects of the treatment.

To date, there has been no known attempt to systematically investigate how many children underwent radiation treatment in Canada for benign conditions and what has been done to alert the public and the medical community of the risks. From Riva we learn that in 2001 patients were still looking for advice.

Had the Canadian health authorities effectively warned the public of the long-term risk of radiation treatment, illnesses and deaths may have been prevented.

Perhaps some still could?The Conversation

Itai Bavli, PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies (Public Health and Political Science), University of British Columbia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

July 15, 2019 Posted by | Canada, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Radioactive polonium in cigarette smoke 

Radioactive polonium in cigarette smoke  https://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2008/08/29/radioactive-polonium-in-cigarette-smoke/

Category: Science blog August 29, 2008 Ed Yong  Cigarette smoke has been called many things – smelly, dangerous and cancer-causing for a start. But radioactive? Yes, that too. Tobacco smoke contains a radioactive chemical element called polonium-210. It’s the same substance that poisoned the Russian Alexander Litvinenko in London two years ago.

Now, a new study reported in the Independent and to be published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that tobacco companies have known about the danger of polonium in cigarette smoke for over 40 years. Monique Muggli, who led the review, examined over 1,500 internal documents from tobacco companies. Most of these have never been published and were made available through legal action.

Muggli wrote, “Internal tobacco industry documents reveal that the companies suppressed publication of their own internal research to avoid heightening the public’s awareness of radioactivity in cigarettes.”

What happens when you inhale polonium?

Polonium-210 emits a type of radiation called alpha-radiation, which is very energetic and can seriously damage DNA. Thankfully, what alpha-radiation has in destructive ability, it lacks in penetrating power. Human skin is usually enough to stop it, but that’s of little consolation to people who inhale particles of polonium-210. That places the tissues of their lungs and airways in direct and close contact with these powerful sources of radiation.

Indeed, studies have detected polonium-210 in the airways of smokers, where they are concentrated in hot spots. They remain there because other chemicals in cigarette smoke damage the body’s cleaning systems, which would normally get rid of gunk in our airways.

As a result, polonium builds up and subjects nearby cells to higher doses of alpha-radiation. These localised build-ups lead to far greater and longer exposures to radiation than people would usually get from natural sources.

For example, one study found that a person smoking two packs a day is exposed to about 5 times as much polonium as a non-smoker but specific parts of their lungs could be exposed to hundreds of times more radiation. Another study estimated that smoking a pack-and-a-half every day exposes a smoker to a dose of radiation equivalent to 300 chest X-rays a year.

Do these doses lead to lung cancer? It’s hard to say, especially since the effects of polonium are only part of a wider range of damaging consequences caused by inhaling cigarette smoke. But animal studies certainly give us cause for concern.

Absorbed doses of radiation can be measured using units called rads, and experiments have shown that as little as 15 rads of polonium can induce lung cancers in mice. That’s only about a fifth of what a smoker would get if they averaged 2 packs a day for 25 years. Indeed, the lung tissues of smokers who have died of lung cancer have absorbed about 80-100 rads of radiation.

Where does polonium comes from?

Some tobacco plants are grown using fertilisers that contain a mineral called apatite. Apatite contains a radioactive element called radium, which can eventually decay into polonium-210.

But tobacco plants can also absorb radioactive elements directly from the air around them. These include both polonium, and other radioactive elements that eventually decay into it. Tobacco leaves are covered in sticky hairs, making them especially good at catching chemicals from the atmosphere around them. Studies in countries all over the world have found significant levels of polonium in local tobacco brands.

Is it possible to create a ‘safe’ cigarette by removing polonium? Simple answer – no. The newly retrieved documents reveal that the tobacco industry has tried in vain to remove the radioactive element by washing tobacco leaves, genetically modifying the plants or using filters. None of these methods appears to have worked, and indeed, an independent Polish study found that filters only absorb a very small amount of polonium-210.

Even if polonium could be removed, it would be a shallow victory, for the radioactive element is just one of at least 69 cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke. They are 69 very good reasons to never touch a cigarette again.

July 15, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Trip to check radiation after 1989 sinking of Russian sub 

AP News July 5, 2019  COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A joint Norwegian-Russian expedition will assess whether a Russian submarine that sank 30 years ago is leaking radioactive material, Norwegian authorities said Friday.

The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority say Norwegian research vessel G.O. Sars will set off Saturday from Tromsoe, northern Norway, to the Arctic Barents Sea where the Komsomolets submarine sank in 1989. Forty-two of the 69 crewmen died in a fire, and the submarine’s nuclear reactor and two nuclear warheads are still on board.

The agency said a Norwegian-built remote-controlled submersible would be used and the work “would be demanding” as the submarine “lies deep” at about 1,700 meters (5,610 feet)…… https://www.apnews.com/dd6e18dafde14bf799de6d9b5f13fccd

July 8, 2019 Posted by | oceans, radiation, Russia | Leave a comment