By: Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
The New York Academy of Medicine celebrated the second anniversary of Fukushima’s nuclear disaster with a two day Fukushima Symposium on March 11th and 12th. Sponsored by the Helen Caldicott Foundation and Physicians for Social Responsibility, the event consisted of presentations from a broad range of physician and non-physician researchers specialized in the effects of nuclear radiation on the environment and human health.
What the symposium makes crystal clear is that there has been a deliberate effort by Japanese government, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the Obama administration, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) to minimize the long term health consequences of nuclear fallout, especially to children. Instead of backtracking on the billions of dollars he approved to subsidize TEPCO to build more US nuclear power plants, Obama is participating in an international cover-up to conceal the serious long term dangers of this technology. See After 50 Years Nuclear Power Still not Viable Without Subsidies
I found the March 11th presentation by Dr Steven Starr of the Clinical Laboratory Science Program at the University of Missouri the most illuminating. The focus of Starr’s talk was the long term effects of Cesium-137, which is the main long term contaminant of soil and food following a nuclear accident.
The research Starr presents directly contradicts a study WHO published two months ago called The Health Risk Assessment From the Nuclear Accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The latter supports the Japanese government’s position that the radioactive contamination deposited immediately after meltdown has dissipated and there is no longer any risk of eating food produced there. Buoyed by the WHO study, the Japanese government has already declared Fukushima rice totallysafe provided it emits less than 100 Becquerels (Bq) per kilogram (kg). (A Becquerel is one atomic disintegration per second.)
Research conducted after Chernobyl contradicts this directive. According to Starr, children in the Ukraine and Belarus routinely exposed to more than 50 Bq per kg of Cesium-137 (from the Chernobyl meltdown) Chernobyl suffered irreversible heart damage.
According to Starr WHO and IRCP are guilty of four main scientific errors:
- WHO and IRCP quantify radiation exposure in Sieverts or milliSieverts (mSv). This is extremely controversial because a Sievert isn’t a measure of actual radiation exposure but of presumed radiation “effect” based on mathematical modeling.
- WHO and IRCP studies are based on an assumption that Cesium-137is spread uniformly throughout the body, whereas their own research shows it bioaccumulates in specific organs.
- None of the WHO and IRCP studies incorporate Dr Yuri Bandazhevsky’s detailed research into Belarusian children exposed to Cesium-137 following Chernobyl, which has only recently been translated into English.
- None of the WHO and IRCP studies distinguish between external exposure and chronic internal exposure due to radionuclides that accumulate in vital organs.
Basic Scientific Facts About Cesium-137 and Fallout fromFukushima
Cesium-137 is released as a gas and has chemical properties similar to potassium. Thus it reaches highest concentrations in potassium-rich foods, like berries and mushrooms and in animal products at the top of the food chain (e.g. milk and meat). In the body it accumulates in the same organs in which potassium accumulates (heart, pancreas and other endocrine organs, intestine and kidneys).
Eight months after the Fukushima meltdown, the Japanese Science Ministry released a map showing that 11,580 square miles, 30,000 square kilometers, or 13% of the Japanese mainland, had been contaminated with Cesium-137. The official government map fails to designate any cesium-137 contamination in the Tokyo metropolitan area, unlike an independent survey done by Professor Yukio Hayakawa of Gunma University. (People may recall the government also tried to deny for two months that there had been any meltdowns.)
Somewhere between 4500 and 7700 square miles (an area approximately the size of Connecticut) was found to have radiation levels that exceeded Japan’s previous allowable exposure limit of 1 mSv per year. Rather than evacuate this area, Japan chose to raise its acceptable radiation exposure from 1mSv to 20 mSv per year.
Studies show that a dose of 20 mSv per year, will produce 1,000 additional cases of cancer in female infants and 500 in male infants (per 100,000 in their age group.). There will be also sn additional 100 per 100,000 cancer cases in 30 year-old-males.
The Effect of Chronic Cesium-137 Exposure
Based on Bandazhevsky’s research, Starr questions whether even 1 mSv (14,000 Bq) per year is safe in children, as WHO and ICRP claim. The figure is based on the assumption that absorbed Cesium-137 is distributed uniformly throughout the body.
Research done by Dr. Yuri Bandazhevsky and his colleagues in Belarus between 1991 and 1999, found that children exposed to whole body radiation levels above 50 Bq per kg of body weight experienced irreversible damage to their heart and other vital organs.
Bandazhevsky summarized his nine years of research in s paper entitled “Radioactive Cesium and the Heart.” With the help of friends, Starr has just finished editing an English translation of this work. It has never been translated before because shortly after Bandazhevsky presented it to the Parliament and President of Belarus, he was arrested and imprisoned. Just as Soviet physicians were forbidden to diagnose radiation-related illness following Chernobyl, the Belarusian government vigorously suppressed the work of Bandazhevsky, who was protesting government efforts to resettle people back into land badly contaminated with Cesium-137.
Two million people in Belarus live on lands severely contaminated by cesium-137. Fourteen years following Chernobyl, most of the children there were in very poor health. 45 to 47% of high school graduates had physical disorders, including gastrointestinal anomalies, abnormal heart function and cataracts, and 40% were diagnosed with chronic “blood disorders” and malfunctioning thyroids.
You can watch a video of Stars presentation at Implications of Massive Cesium-137 Contamination and read the transcript at Cesium-137 transcript. You can watch the entire 2-day symposium at Symposium webcast.
The presentations on Day 2 focus more heavily on the distribution of the radioactive plume that reached the US (and not just the West Coast), and the growing Fukushima-related health problems in Americans.
The final event on the March 11 morning webcast is a presentation by two US sailors whose aircraft carrier was anchored off Fukushima. They describe how Navy negligence and disinformation caused both to be exposed to heavy doses of radiation – and the major health problems they’re dealing with.