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Cancers caused by unnecessary radiation treatment to children in 1940s and 50s. No warning was given

A generation of Canadian children was given radiation treatment and never warned of the cancer risks https://theconversation.com/a-generation-of-canadian-children-was-given-radiation-treatment-and-never-warned-of-the-cancer-risks-116403   Itai Bavli
PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies (Public Health and Political Science), University of British Columbia  June 20, 2019
  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?

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June 20, 2019 Posted by | Canada, radiation, USA | Leave a comment

Western governments in denial of Chronic Radiation Syndrome affecting nuclear test veterans

The concept of a Chronic Radiation Syndrome was first reported by Japanese doctors who observed survivors of the atomic bombs dropped upon Japan in 1945. There, the name for the syndrome is Bura Bura disease. It is not accepted by the West.

the USA was in possession of the 1971 Soviet description of Chronic Radiation Syndrome in 1973 at the latest.

In 1994 the US Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute Bethesda, Maryland, published “Analysis of Chronic Radiation Sickness Cases in the Population of the Southern Urals”.

From the 1950s, nuclear veterans and civilian Downwinders reported syndromes of ill health similar to Chronic Radiation Syndrome to their governments. This includes the government of the USA and the government of Australia. These reports certainly did not result in Chronic Radiation Syndrome entering the Western medical lexicon.

During the 40-year period of operations at Mayak, all studies on radiation exposure of personnel at the plant and of the off-site population, the doses of exposure, and the possible health effects from radiation exposure were classified for national security reasons”.

anyone who spoke of the reality of disease and disablement suffered by those afflicted by the nuclear weapons tests in Australia were subject to threats of imprisonment by government and to attempts of censorship by the British and Australian authorities (Marsden, cited in Cross). It took 3 decades for the Australian government to release nuclear veterans from the threat of legal action and imprisonment if they spoke.

Chronic Radiation Syndrome,  https://nuclearexhaust.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/chronic-radiation-syndrome/   Paul Langley, 9 June 19 The claim that Australian nuclear veterans suffer enhanced risk of cancer has been confirmed by the Australian Government only as recently as 2006. The official government position is that the enhanced risk suffered by the nuclear test veterans is shown in health survey results. However the Australian government refuses to acknowledge that radiation exposures due to the testing of nuclear weapons as the cause of this increased risk.

Scientists under contract to the Australian government located at Adelaide performed the analysis of the 2006 health survey results. These scientists initially suggested that exposure to petrol fumes in the Australian desert might be the cause of the increased cancer risk suffered by nuclear veterans.

This suggestion, present in the Health Survey draft report, did not make it into the final report. Instead, we are presented with a mystery. Though the scientists claim certainty in their position that the nuclear veterans’ exposure to nuclear weapons detonations was not the cause of their increased cancer risk, the scientists are unable to find any other cause.

It’s a mystery, apparently, to Australian science in the service of the State. Not that this is uniquely Australian. It is universal among the Nuclear Powers. (It is all the more perplexing given Dr. P. Couch’s compassionate and detailed submission to a Senate inquiry examining the impact of the British Nuclear Tests in Australia on the personnel involved. Dr. Couch’s submission described the suffering endured by Commonwealth Police personnel who guarded the Maralinga Nuclear Test Site after military activity had ceased. One would have logically thought that if personnel were affected by service at Maralinga in times after the cessation of weapons testing, then so were the military personnel who actually saw the bombs explode, and who saw the plutonium dust disperse during the “minor trials”. )

The report states:

“The cancer incidence study showed an overall increase in the number of cancers in test participants, similar to that found in the mortality study. The number of cancer cases found among participants was 2456, which was 23% higher than expected. A significant increase in both the number of deaths and the number of cases was found for (figures in
brackets show increase in mortality and incidence):

Continue reading

June 10, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s “Reference Man” gives a distorted, inaccurate picture of radiation impacts

Mary Olsen: Disproportionate impact of radiation and radiation regulation. Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (accessed) 9th June 2019 
Abstract.  Reference Man is used for generic evaluation of ionizing radiation impacts,  regulation, and nuclear licensing decisions made by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (US NRC).
The United States Code of Federal Regulations, 2018 edition, Chapter 10: Part 20 ‘Standards for Protection  Against Radiation’ contains eight references to ‘reference man’ as the basis for regulation and calculation of radiation exposure.
Findings from 60 years of A-bomb survivor data show that Reference Man does not represent the human life cycle with respect to harm from radiation exposure. Findings reported here show females are more harmed by radiation,
particularly when exposed as young girls, than is predicted by use of Reference Man; the difference is a much as 10-fold. Since females have been ignored in regulatory analysis, this has resulted in systematic under-reporting of harm from ionizing radiation exposure in the global population.

A critique is also offered on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to include females in its regulation. Recommendations for interim regulation to provide better protection, and questions forfurther study are offered.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03080188.2019.160386

June 10, 2019 Posted by | radiation, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

What Is Radiation Poisoning?

What Is Radiation Poisoning? Here’s What to Know About the Disease Seen on HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

And what’s the deal with those iodine pills?, Health, By Christina Oehler June 03, 2019     “…….

In the three years following the Chernobyl explosion, about 530,000 recovery operation workers (think firefighters and other first-responders) were enlisted to help clean up the accident. These workers were exposed to extremely high levels of radiation— an average of 120 millisievert (mSv), or more than 1,000 times more powerful than a chest X-ray, according to the World Health Organization. Those who responded earliest are believed to have been exposed to levels even higher than that.

What is acute radiation syndrome?

According to the CDC, acute radiation syndrome occurs when a person is exposed to a very high level of radiation in a short period of time. The first symptoms of ARS include nausea, vomiting, headache, and diarrhea, which can occur within minutes to days after exposure.

After the initial symptoms subside, an ARS victim will usually feel fine for a period of time before relapsing. The person’s symptoms will vary depending on the level of radiation they received, but some of the symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and possibly even seizures and coma.

Skin damage is another side effect of ARS, which becomes apparent in the third episode of the show. Swelling, itching and redness of the skin can occur. In more extreme cases, people can also experience permanent hair loss, damaged oil- and sweat-producing glands, skin discoloration, scarring and ulceration, or tissue death.

The higher the exposure, the more likely the person will die from ARS. Death from ARS typically occurs as a result of bone-marrow decay, which causes infections and internal bleeding.

What are the long-term effects of radiation exposure?

Valery Legasov, the chemist who worked to help resolve the Chernobyl explosion, is a main character in the HBO mini-series. He reiterates throughout the show that radiation exposure—even at moderate or low levels—can have long-term effects on a person’s health.

According to the EPA, exposure to radiation in moderate doses (like the nearby town of Pripyat would have had) can raise a person’s risk of getting cancer—in particular, thyroid cancer. Additionally, children and fetuses are at increased risk for radiation-related health problems. Exposure at moderate levels can cause cells to divide rapidly, which can result in developmental and birth defects in these sensitive groups.

What do iodine pills do?

Throughout the show, multiple characters recommend iodine pills as a treatment for ARS. Iodine helps the thyroid block harmful radioactive iodine from being absorbed, which ultimately could lead to cancer.

According to the CDC, the thyroid is the most sensitive organ to radioactive iodine, so preventing its absorption in the body can help reduce the risks of developing cancer. While plenty of foods (like table salt) contain healthy levels of iodine for a normal diet, they do not have the level of potassium iodine needed in the case of a nuclear fallout.

Iodine pills should not be taken unless recommended by health officials, in the case of a radiation accident. They also won’t protect against any of the other immediate health effects of radiation poisoning besides thyroid damage.

Ultimately, the levels of radiation needed to cause ARS would only happen in the case of a radiation crisis. While you can take solace in the fact that the levels of radiation from Chernobyl have decreased significantly over the past 30 years—and the fact that disasters involving nuclear power reactors are rare—you can learn more about what to do in case of a radiological emergency here. https://www.health.com/mind-body/radiation-poisoning-chernobyl

June 8, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Chernobyl miniseries could not be made in the real Chernobyl wasteland – radiation would have damaged the film kit

‘Radiation would have damaged the film kit’: where Sky’s Chernobyl was really shot,  Telegraph UK, 7 June 19   Last night saw the last episode in Sky’s riveting drama about the 1986 Chernobyl power plant disaster, one of the worst man-made catastrophes ever to befall our planet. It’s not often The Telegraph dishes out five-star TV reviews, but this show earned it.Along with stellar performances from the largely-British cast, no expense was spared to bring the Soviet-era nuclear warning tale to life visually; from the costumes and stage make-up to the backdrops and special effects. But where was it filmed?

Not at the real Chernobyl wasteland that still stands today in what is now Ukraine, but rather in Lithuania, mainly at Chernobyl’s sister power plant, Ignalina, with other portions filmed in suitably… (subscribers only) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/lithuania/articles/chernobyl-tv-show-real-filming-locations/

June 8, 2019 Posted by | media, radiation, Ukraine | Leave a comment

New Hampshire citizens’ group to monitor radiation emanating from the Seabrook Power plant.

Group looks to monitor Seabrook power plant radiation, Seacoastonline.com By 

June 4, 2019 Posted by | ACTION, environment, radiation, USA | Leave a comment

Misleading and dangerous – the downplaying of Chernobyl’s radiation risks

May 27, 2019 Posted by | radiation, spinbuster, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s mothers became radiation experts to protect their children after nuclear meltdown 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-12/fukushima-mums-teach-themselves-how-to-be-radiation-experts/11082520

Key points:

  • Mothers in Fukushima set up a radiation testing lab because they didn’t trust government results
  • The women test food, water and soil and keep the public informed about radiation levels
  • A major earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima power plant in 2011

They are testing everything — rice, vacuum cleaner dust, seafood, moss and soil — for toxic levels of radiation.

But these lab workers are not typical scientists.

They are ordinary mums who have built an extraordinary clinic.

“Our purpose is to protect children’s health and future,” says lab director Kaori Suzuki.

In March 2011, nuclear reactors catastrophically melted down at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, following an earthquake and tsunami.

Driven by a desperate need to keep their children safe, a group of mothers began testing food and water in the prefecture.

The women, who had no scientific background, built the lab from the ground up, learning everything on the job.

The lab is named Tarachine, a Japanese word which means “beautiful mother”.

“As mothers, we had to find out what we can feed our children and if the water was safe,” Ms Suzuki says.

“We had no choice but to measure the radiation and that’s why we started Tarachine.”

After the nuclear accident, Fukushima residents waited for radiation experts to arrive to help.

“No experts who knew about measuring radiation came to us. It was chaos,” she says.

In the days following the meltdown, a single decision by the Japanese Government triggered major distrust in official information which persists to this day.

The Government failed to quickly disclose the direction in which radioactive materials was drifting from the power plant.

Poor internal communications caused the delay, but the result was that thousands fled in the direction that radioactive materials were flying.

Former trade minister Banri Kaieda, who oversaw energy policy at the time, has said that he felt a “sense of shame” about the lack of disclosure.

But Kaori Suzuki said she still finds it difficult to trust the government.

“They lied and looked down on us, and a result, deceived the people,” Ms Suzuki says.

“So it’s hard for the people who experienced that to trust them.”

She and the other mothers who work part-time at the clinic feel great responsibility to protect the children of Fukushima.

But it hasn’t always been easy.

When they set up the lab, they relied on donated equipment, , and none of them had experience in radiation testing. There was nobody who could teach us and just the machines arrived,” Ms Suzuki says.

“At the time, the analysing software and the software with the machine was in English, so that made it even harder to understand.

“In the initial stage we struggled with English and started by listening to the explanation from the manufacturer. We finally got some Japanese software once we got started with using the machines.”

Radiation experts from top universities gave the mothers’ training, and their equipment is now among the most sophisticated in the country.

Food safety is still an issue

The Fukushima plant has now been stabilised and radiation has come down to levels considered safe in most areas.

But contamination of food from Japan remains a hotly contested issue.

Australia was one of the first countries to lift import restrictions on Japanese food imports after the disaster.

But more than 20 countries and trading blocs have kept their import ban or restrictions on Japanese fisheries and agricultural products.

At the clinic in Fukushima, Kaori Suzuki said she accepted that decision.

“It doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong. I feel that’s just the decision they have made for now,” she says.

Most results in their lab are comparatively low, but the mothers say it is important there is transparency so that people know what their children are consuming.

Fukushima’s children closely monitored after meltdown

Noriko Tanaka is one of many mothers in the region who felt that government officials were completely unprepared for the unfolding disaster.

She was three months pregnant with her son Haru when the disaster struck.

Ms Tanaka lived in Iwaki City, about 50 kilometres south of the power plant.

Amid an unfolding nuclear crisis, she panicked that the radioactive iodine released from the meltdown would harm her unborn child.

She fled on the night of the disaster.

When she returned home 10 days later, the fear of contamination from the invisible, odourless radioactive material weighed deeply on her mind.

“I wish I was able to breastfeed the baby,” she says.

“[Radioactive] caesium was detected in domestic powdered milk, so I had to buy powdered milk made overseas to feed him.”

Ms Tanaka now has two children —seven-year-old Haru and three-year-old Megu. She regularly takes them in for thyroid checks which are arranged free-of-charge by the mothers’ clinic.

Radiation exposure is a proven risk factor for thyroid cancer, but experts say it’s too early to tell what impact the nuclear meltdown will have on the children of Fukushima.

Noriko Tanaka is nervous as Haru’s thyroid is checked.

“In the last examination, the doctor said Haru had a lot of cysts, so I was very worried,” she says.

However this time, Haru’s results are better and he earns a high-five from Dr Yoshihiro Noso.

He said there was nothing to worry about, so I feel relieved after taking the test,” Ms Tanaka says.

“The doctor told me that the number of cysts will increase and decrease as he grows up.”

Doctor Noso has operated on only one child from Fukushima, but it is too early to tell if the number of thyroid cancers is increasing because of the meltdown.

“There isn’t a way to distinguish between cancers that were caused naturally and those by the accident,” he says.Dr Noso says his biggest concern is for children who were under five years old when the accident happened.The risk is particularly high for girls.

Even if I say there is nothing to worry medically, each mother is still worried,” he says.

“They feel this sense of responsibility because they let them play outside and drink the water. If they had proper knowledge of radiation, they would not have done that,” he said.

Mums and doctors fear for future of Fukushima’s children

After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, the incidence of thyroid cancers increased suddenly after five years….

“In the case of Chernobyl, the thyroid cancer rate increased for about 10 years. It’s been eight years since the disaster and I would like to continue examinations for another two years.” …….

Some children, whose families fled Fukushima to other parts of Japan have faced relentless bullying.

“Some children who evacuated from Fukushima living in other prefectures are being bullied [so badly that they] can’t go to school,” Noriko Tanaka said.

“The radiation level is low in the area we live in and it’s about the same as Tokyo, but we will be treated the same as the people who live in high-level radiation areas.”

Noriko is particularly worried for little Megu because of prejudice against the children of Fukushima.

“For girls, there are concerns about marriage and having children because of the possibility of genetic issues.”

May 13, 2019 Posted by | Japan, radiation, women | Leave a comment

Radioactive fallout could be released from melting glaciers

“Anthropocene Nuclear Legacy” –Melting Glaciers Could Unleash Radioactive Fallout  https://dailygalaxy.com/2019/05/anthropocene-nuclear-legacy-melting-glaciers-could-unleash-radioactive-fallout/ May 9, 2019 “These materials are a product of what we have put into the atmosphere. This is just showing that our nuclear legacy hasn’t disappeared yet. It’s still there,”said Caroline Clason, a lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Plymouth of a study published in Nature that surveyed 19,000 of Earth’s glaciers and found their total melt amounts to a loss of 335 billion tons of ice each year, more than measurements of previous studies.“When it was built in the early 1900s, the road into Mount Rainier National Park from the west passed near the foot of the Nisqually Glacier, one of the mountain’s longest,” reports the New York Times. “Visitors could stop for ice cream at a stand built among the glacial boulders and gaze in awe at the ice. The ice cream stand (image below) is long gone.”

The glacier now ends more than a mile farther up the mountain, and they are melting elsewhere around the world too.

This scary scenario of our nuclear legacy was explored by an international team of scientists who studied the spread of radioactive contaminants in Arctic glaciers throughout Sweden, Iceland, Greenland, the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard, the European Alps, the Caucasus, British Columbia, and Antarctica. The researchers shared their results at the 2019 General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna.

It found man made radioactive material at all 17 survey sites, often at concentrations at least 10 times higher than levels elsewhere. “They are some of the highest levels you see in the environment outside nuclear exclusion zones,” said Caroline Clason

“Missing –14 Billion Tons of Antarctica’s Ice”

Fallout radionuclides (FRNs) were detected these sites. Radioactive material was found embedded within ice surface sediments called “cryoconite,” and at concentration levels ten times greater than the surrounding environment.“ They are some of the highest levels you see in the environment outside nuclear exclusion zones,” Clason, who led the research project, told AFP.

The Chernobyl disaster of 1986—by far the most devastating nuclear accident to date—released vast clouds of radioactive material including Caesium into the atmosphere, causing widespread contamination and acid rain across northern Europe for weeks afterwards. “Radioactive particles are very light so when they are taken up into the atmosphere they can be transported a very long way,” she told AFP. “When it falls as rain, like after Chernobyl, it washes away and it’s sort of a one-off event. But as snow, it stays in the ice for decades and as it melts in response to the climate it’s then washed downstream.”

The environmental impact of this has been shown in recent years, as wild boar meat in Sweden was found to contain more than 10 times the safe levels of Caesium.

“We’re talking about weapons testing from the 1950s and 1960s onwards, going right back in the development of the bomb,” Clason said. “If we take a sediment core you can see a clear spike where Chernobyl was, but you can also see quite a defined spike in around 1963 when there was a period of quite heavy weapons testing.”

Weapons tests can fling radioactive detritus up to 50 miles in the air. Smaller, lighter materials will travel into the upper atmosphere, and may “circulate around the world for years, or even decades, until they gradually settle out or are brought back to the surface by precipitation,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fallout is comprised of radionuclides such as Americium-241, Cesium-137, Iodine-131, and Strontium-90. Depending on a material’s half-life, it could remain in the environment minutes to years before decaying. Their levels of radiation also vary.

Particles can return to the immediate area as acid rain that’s absorbed by plants and soil, wreaking havoc on ecosystems, human health, and communities. But radionuclides that travel far and wide can settle in concentrated levels on snow and ice—large amounts of radioactive material from Fukushima was found in 2011 on four glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau, for example.

One of the most potentially hazardous residues of human nuclear activity is Americium, which is produced when Plutonium decays. Whereas Plutonium has a half-life of 14 years, Americium lasts 400.

Americium is more soluble in the environment and it is a stronger alpha (radiation) emitter. Both of those things are bad in terms of uptake into the food chain,” said Clason. While there is little data available on how these materials can be passed down the food chain—even potentially to humans—Clason said there was no doubt that Americium is “particularly dangerous”.

As geologists look for markers of the epoch when mankind directly impacted the health of the planet—known as the Anthropocene—Clason and her team believe that radioactive particles in ice, soil and sediment could be an important indicator.

The team hopes that future research will investigate how fallout could disperse into the food chain from glaciers, calling it a potential “secondary source of environmental contamination many years after the nuclear event of their origin.”

The Daily Galaxy via AFP, France24, and Nature

May 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, environment, radiation | Leave a comment

Deep ocean animals are eating radioactive carbon from nuclear bomb tests

May 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment, oceans, radiation | Leave a comment

Deep ocean trenches found to have radioactive carbon from nuclear bomb tests

May 9, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, oceans, radiation | Leave a comment

Climate Change Could Unleash Long-Frozen Radiation

https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/a27150094/climate-change-could-unleash-long-frozen-radiation/

Atomic bombs, Chernobyl,Fukushima—radiation has traveled and frozen all over the world. Global warming is changing that.

Melting could be one of the most important phenomena of the 21st century. Thanks to man-made climate change, Arctic ice levels have hit a record low this year. Among the many profound changes that could stem from ice melting across the world, according to a new study from an international group of scientists, is the release of deeply buried radiation.

The international team studied 17 icy locations across the globe, including the Arctic, the Antarctic, Iceland, the Alps, the Caucasus mountains, and British Columbia. While radiation exists naturally, the scientists were looking for example of human-made radiation. It was common to find concentrations at least 10 times higher than levels elsewhere.

“They are some of the highest levels you see in the environment outside nuclear exclusion zones,” says Caroline Clason, a lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Plymouth, speaking in a press statement.

When human-made radiation is released into the environment, be it in small amounts like the Three Mile Island accident of 1979 or larger quantities like the Chernobyl disaster of 1986and the Fukushima Daichii accident of 2011, it goes into the atmosphere. That includes elements like radioactive cesium, which have been known to make people sick to the point of death across the globe.

After Chernobyl, clouds of cesium traveled across Europe. Radiation spread without regard for borders, reaching as far as England through rains. But when rain freezes, it takes the form of ice. And within ice, it can lay trapped.

“Radioactive particles are very light so when they are taken up into the atmosphere they can be transported a very long way,” Clason tells the AFP. “When it falls as rain, like after Chernobyl, it washes away and it’s sort of a one-off event. But as snow, it stays in the ice for decades and as it melts in response to the climate it’s then washed downstream.”

What does that response look like? Humanity is starting to find out, Clason says. She points to wild boar in Sweden, who in 2017 were found to have 10 times the levels of normal radiation.

Traces of human-made radiation last a famously long time. Ice around the globe contains nuclear material not just from accidents involving nuclear power plants, but also man’s use of nuclear weapons.

“We’re talking about weapons testing from the 1950s and 1960s onwards, going right back in the development of the bomb,” Clason says. “If we take a sediment core you can see a clear spike where Chernobyl was, but you can also see quite a defined spike in around 1963 when there was a period of quite heavy weapons testing.”

Elements within radiation have different life spans. Perhaps the most notorious of these, Plutonium-241 has a 14 year half-life. [ed. most plutonium isotopes have half-lives of many thousands of years] But Americium-241, a synthetic chemical element, has a half life of 432 years. It can stay in ice a long time, and when that ice melts will spread. There isn’t much data yet on its ability to spread into the human food chain, but Clason called the threat of Americum “particularly dangerous”.

A term popular in science these days is the Anthropocene, which refers to the idea that humans have permanently altered the very core of how the Earth functions as a living ecosystem. Looking for radiation buried within icy soil and sediment could offer stronger proof of those changes.

“These materials are a product of what we have put into the atmosphere. This is just showing that our nuclear legacy hasn’t disappeared yet, it’s still there,” she says.

“And it’s important to study that because ultimately it’s a mark of what we have left in the environment.”

April 18, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, environment, radiation | 1 Comment

The Chernobyl Syndrome

With bountiful, devastating detail, Brown describes how scientists, doctors, and journalists—mainly in Ukraine and Belarus—went to great lengths and took substantial risks to collect information on the long-term effects of the Chernobyl explosion, which they believed to be extensive.

Other researchers have issued a much sunnier picture of post-Chernobyl ecology, but Brown argues persuasively that they are grossly underestimating the scale of the damage, in part because they rely too heavily on simplistic measurements of radioactivity levels.

Radiation has a special hold on our imagination: an invisible force out of science fiction, it can alter the very essence of our bodies, dissolve us from the inside out. But Manual for Survival asks a larger question about how humans will coexist with the ever-increasing quantities of toxins and pollutants that we introduce into our air, water, and soil. Brown’s careful mapping of the path isotopes take is highly relevant to other industrial toxins, and to plastic waste. When we put a substance into our environment, we have to understand that it will likely remain with us for a very long time, and that it may behave in ways we never anticipated. Chernobyl should not be seen as an isolated accident or as a unique disaster, Brown argues, but as an “exclamation point” that draws our attention to the new world we are creating. 

The Chernobyl Syndrome, The New York Review of Books  SophiePinkhamAPRIL4, 2019

Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future

by Kate Brown
Norton, 420 pp., $27.95

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster

by Adam Higginbotham
Simon and Schuster, 538 pp., $29.95

Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe

by Serhii Plokhy
Basic Books, 404 pp., $32.00


“………As her book’s title, Manual for Survival, suggests, Kate Brown is interested in the aftermath of Chernobyl, not the disaster itself. Her heroes are not first responders but brave citizen-scientists, independent-minded doctors and health officials, journalists, and activists who fought doggedly to uncover the truth about the long-term damage caused by Chernobyl. Her villains include not only the lying, negligent Soviet authorities, but also the Western governments and international agencies that, in her account, have worked for decades to downplay or actually conceal the human and ecological cost of nuclear war, nuclear tests, and nuclear accidents. Rather than attributing Chernobyl to authoritarianism, she points to similarities in the willingness of Soviets and capitalists to sacrifice the health of workers, the public, and the environment to production goals and geopolitical rivalries. Continue reading

April 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, resources - print | Leave a comment

Ionising radiation released from ice surface sediments, as climate change melts glaciers

Siren sounds on nuclear fallout embedded in melting glaciers   https://phys.org/news/2019-04-siren-nuclear-fallout-embedded-glaciers.html, by Patrick Galey, 10 Apr 19,   Radioactive fallout from nuclear meltdowns and weapons testing is nestled in glaciers across the world, scientists said Wednesday, warning of a potentially hazardous time bomb as rising temperatures melt the icy residue.

For the first time, an international team of scientists has studied the presence of nuclear fallout in ice surface sediments on glaciers across the Arctic, Iceland the Alps, Caucasus mountains, British Columbia and Antarctica.

It found manmade radioactive material at all 17 survey sites, often at concentrations at least 10 times higher than levels elsewhere.

“They are some of the highest levels you see in the environment outside nuclear exclusion zones,” said Caroline Clason, a lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Plymouth.

When radioactive material is released into the atmosphere, it falls to earth as acid rain, some of which is absorbed by plants and soil.

But when it falls as snow and settles in the ice, it forms heavier sediment which collects in glaciers, concentrating the levels of nuclear residue.

The Chernobyl disaster of 1986—by far the most devastating nuclear accident to date—released vast clouds of radioactive material including Caesium into the atmosphere, causing widespread contamination and acid rain across northern Europe for weeks afterwards.

“Radioactive particles are very light so when they are taken up into the atmosphere they can be transported a very long way,” she told AFP.

“When it falls as rain, like after Chernobyl, it washes away and it’s sort of a one-off event. But as snow, it stays in the ice for decades and as it melts in response to the climate it’s then washed downstream.”

The environmental impact of this has been shown in recent years, as wild boar meat in Sweden was found to contain more than 10 times the safe levels of Caesium.

Clason said her team had detected some fallout from the Fukushima meltdown in 2011, but stressed that much of the particles from that particular disaster had yet to collect on the ice sediment.

As well as disasters, radioactive material produced from weapons testing was also detected at several research sites.

“We’re talking about weapons testing from the 1950s and 1960s onwards, going right back in the development of the bomb,” she said. “If we take a sediment core you can see a clear spike where Chernobyl was, but you can also see quite a defined spike in around 1963 when there was a period of quite heavy weapons testing.”

One of the most potentially hazardous residues of human nuclear activity is Americium, which is produced when Plutonium decays.

Whereas Plutonium has a half-life of 14 years, Americium lasts 400.  [Ed note: Most plutonium isotopes have very long half-lives, plutonium-239 being one of the shortest at over 24,000 years] 

“Americium is more soluble in the environment and it is a stronger alpha (radiation) emitter. Both of those things are bad in terms of uptake into the food chain,” said Clason.

While there is little data available on how these materials can be passed down the food chain—even potentially to humans—Clason said there was no doubt that Americium is “particularly dangerous”.

As geologists look for markers of the epoch when mankind directly impacted the health of the planet—known as the Anthropocene—Clason and her team believe that radioactive particles in ice, soil and sediment could be an important indicator.

“These materials are a product of what we have put into the atmosphere. This is just showing that our nuclear legacy hasn’t disappeared yet, it’s still there,” Clason said.

“And it’s important to study that because ultimately it’s a mark of what we have left in the environment.”

April 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, radiation | Leave a comment

Before we enter “a new nuclear age” – learn from the newly declassified Chernobyl health records

Fortunately, Chernobyl health records are now available to the public. They show that people living in the radioactive traces fell ill from cancers, respiratory illness, anaemia, auto-immune disorders, birth defects, and fertility problems two to three times more frequently in the years after the accident than before. In a highly contaminated Belarusian town of Veprin, just six of 70 children in 1990 were characterised as “healthy”. The rest had one chronic disease or another. On average, the Veprin children had in their bodies 8,498 bq/kg of radioactive caesium (20 bq/kg is considered safe).

For decades, researchers have puzzled over strange clusters of thyroid cancer, leukaemia and birth defects among people living in Cumbria, which, like southern Belarus, is an overlooked hotspot of radioactivity from cold war decades of nuclear bomb production and nuclear power accidents.

Currently, policymakers are advocating a massive expansion of nuclear power as a way to combat climate change. Before we enter a new nuclear age, the declassified Chernobyl health records raise questions that have been left unanswered about the impact of chronic low doses of radioactivity on human health.

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As researchers monitored Chernobyl radioactivity, they made a troubling discovery. Only half of the caesium-137 they detected came from Chernobyl. The rest had already been in the Cumbrian soils; deposited there during the years of nuclear testing and after the 1957 fire at the Windscale plutonium plant. The same winds and rains that brought down Chernobyl fallout had been at work quietly distributing radioactive contaminants across northern England and Scotland for decades. Fallout from bomb tests carried out during the cold war scattered a volume of radioactive gases that dwarfed Chernobyl. 

The Chernobyl explosions issued 45m curies of radioactive iodine into the atmosphere. Emissions from Soviet and US bomb tests amounted to 20bn curies of radioactive iodine, 500 times more. Radioactive iodine, a short lived, powerful isotope can cause thyroid disease, thyroid cancer, hormonal imbalances, problems with the GI tract and autoimmune disorders.

As engineers detonated over 2,000 nuclear bombs into the atmosphere, scientists lost track of where radioactive isotopes fell and where they came from, but they caught glimpses of how readily radioactivity travelled the globe.

Chernobyl’s disastrous cover-up is a warning for the next nuclear age

 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/04/chernobyl-nuclear-power-climate-change-health-radioactivity,   So that day, in a Moscow airport, technicians loaded artillery shells with silver iodide. Soviet air force pilots climbed into the cockpits of TU-16 bombers and made the easy one-hour flight to Chernobyl, where the reactor burned. The pilots circled, following the weather. They flew 30, 70, 100, 200km – chasing the inky black billows of radioactive waste. When they caught up with a cloud, they shot jets of silver iodide into it to emancipate the rain.In the sleepy towns of southern Belarus, villagers looked up to see planes with strange yellow and grey contrails snaking across the sky. Next day, 27 April, powerful winds kicked up, cumulus clouds billowed on the horizon, and rain poured down in a deluge. The raindrops scavenged radioactive dust floating 200 metres in the air and sent it to the ground. The pilots trailed the slow-moving gaseous bulk of nuclear waste north-east beyond Gomel, into Mogilev province. Wherever pilots shot silver iodide, rain fell, along with a toxic brew of a dozen radioactive elements.

If Operation Cyclone had not been top secret, the headline would have been spectacular: “Scientists using advanced technology save Russian cities from technological disaster!” Yet, as the old saying goes, what goes up must come down. No one told the Belarusians that the southern half of the republic had been sacrificed to protect Russian cities. In the path of the artificially induced rain lived several hundred thousand Belarusians ignorant of the contaminants around them.

The public is often led to believe that the Chernobyl exclusion zone, a depopulated 20-mile circle around the blown plant, safely contains Chernobyl radioactivity. Tourists and journalists exploring the zone rarely realise there is a second Chernobyl zone in southern Belarus. In it, people lived for 15 years in levels of contamination as high as areas within the official zone until the area was finally abandoned, in 1999.

In believing that the Chernobyl zone safely contained the accident, we fall for the proximity trap, which holds that the closer a person is to a nuclear explosion, the more radioactivity they are exposed to. But radioactive gases follow weather patterns, moving around the globe to leave shadows of contamination in shapes that resemble tongues, kidneys, or the sharp tips of arrows.

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April 6, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, health, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment