1. Hazards of Low Level Radioactivity
2. Nuclear Power is Bad Business
3. The Petkau Effect
Chapter 4. Health Damage from
6. Depleted Uranium
7. Photos of Radiation Damage
8. Radioactive Waste
9. Toward Clean Energy
Email: NuclearReader at gmail.com
CHAPTER FOUR: HEALTH DAMAGE
THIS CHAPTER CLARIFIES THAT THERE IS NO SAFE AMOUNT OF RADIATION. ANY DOSE IS AN OVERDOSE.
In high, short doses like the Hiroshima bomb blast, radiation primarily causes direct damage to the nucleus of cells where the genes that control the functioning of the cell are located. This high level radiation causes an alteration in the structure of the DNA, the chromosomes that carry the genetic blueprint, resulting in incorrect structure of new cells. Damaged DNA tends to reproduce new cells very rapidly – becoming what we call cancer. In contrast, low doses acting continuously over time produce their damage indirectly through the generation of free radicals that destroy cell-membranes, hundreds to thousands of times more efficiently than might be expected in calculations related to high-dose damage. So the everyday amount of radiation that is released as part of the normal operation of the world's 400 nuclear power plants is a very grave concern. Nuclear power plants must have releases in order to function, and these releases, even though they may be partially filtered, disperse radiation into our air and drinking water, onto farmland and into our food.
Since the work of Abram Petkau in 1972 (see ch. 3) it is known that low protracted doses of radiation cause physiological damage through the formation of free radicals. A free radical is a molecule with an imbalance in electrons which can destabilize other molecules resulting in cellular damage and disease.
All living and nonliving things are made up of units of matter called atoms. When atoms join together they are called molecules. Atoms are made up of two basic parts: a nucleus and pairs of electrons. The nucleus has a positive electric charge that balances the negative electric charge of the electrons. There is a dynamic balance both between the pairs of electrons and between the electrons and the nucleus.
When an electron is added or removed this balance is lost,
and the atom or molecule seeks to regain this balance by taking an electron
from another atom, which triggers a chain reaction.
Free radicals can damage white blood cells and particularly the defender T cells, both of which are key to a strong immune system--and enable you to ward off bacteria and viruses. Free radicals may also weaken essential antibodies that are produced by the immune system to protect from disease, resulting in susceptibility to communicable diseases. Uncontrolled free radicals may disturb nerve chemicals, which can affect the brain and nervous system. They may slow or distort the transmission of messages by damaging neurotransmitters, resulting in memory loss and mental problems including senile dementia. Free radicals may also eat away at the protective myelin sheath around the nerves, limiting reflexes or causing multiple sclerosis.
Digestive enzymes are also vulnerable to free radical assault, reducing their ability to digest and utilize food and thus limiting the absorption of nutrients. Free radicals may injure the lubricating synovial fluid around the joints, causing inflammation and pain and resulting in arthritis, bursitis or gout. Free radicals cause what science calls 'cross-linking', a hooking together of cell structures that may be partly responsible for hardening of the arteries, stiffness of joints, and wrinkling of skin--many of the manifestations of aging. Cross-linking in the lungs causes emphysema.
Free radicals may damage genes, the DNA and RNA in the cell nucleus that mastermind the creation of new cells. When a cell with a damaged gene divides to make two cells, the new cell may be abnormal. When the DNA is damaged it tends to reproduce new cells very rapidly--the hallmark of cancer. Damaged DNA may produce cells that are not able to function as they were meant to, resulting in, for example, deterioration of tissue and organs and messenger hormones, among many other things.
Free radicals account for nearly all of the signs and symptoms we think of as normal (and inevitable) in aging. An article in the August 1992 issue of the journal Science centered on 'the importance of free radical damage to nucleic acids and lipids in age-related disease processes'. It explained what a difficult task the human body faces in counteracting free radicals, which some researchers believe are responsible for thousands of alterations to the DNA of each cell. The article concludes that a “fraction of such a massive amount of damage would escape repairs by even the most sophisticated mechanisms and the accumulation of unrepaired damage could account for the age related loss of physiological function."
Free radicals can also cause malformed molecules--which the immune system sees as foreign invaders. The immune system reacts to clear them out, eventually becoming worn down and exhausted in the process--and unable to fully combat the real enemies it faces. This allows disease to take hold. The weakest points start to go first. In one person it may be arthritis, in another it may be extreme fatigue, in another allergies and so on. Free radical damage to cells progresses to tissues and organs and results principally in heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and diseases of immune suppression.
In brief, free radicals can damage any organ system of the body. When we see these effects as laypeople, we pass them off as aging, medical scientists call them 'degenerative diseases.'
RADIATION > FREE RADICAL > CELL DAMAGE > TISSUE DAMAGE > DISEASE
The immune system is the body's protective system, which has the purpose of ensuring survival of the individual. It does this by looking out for any alien structures, and when it sees them, it engulfs and removes them. It is composed of a network of organs, hormones and special cells that defend the body from bacteria, virus and cancer cells by neutralizing them.
There are about a trillion lymphocytes, white blood cells, which become differentiated by the immune system to do different jobs. The thymus gland is where white blood cells are turned into T cells. The thymus is vulnerable to free radical damage, thus affecting its function of creating T cells from white blood cells.
The immune system has to be able to distinguish what should be there from what should not be there. It has the brilliant ability to differentiate between what is a part of the body and what is an alien invader. This alien might be a germ from outside or one of your own cells turned malignant. Or it could be a malformed structure caused by a free radical reaction. Mopping up too many of these odd structures will exhaust the immune system.
This insidious damage to the immune system can result in: Down's syndrome, cleft lip, epilepsy, kidney and liver damage, thyroid disease, increased infant mortality, infertility, genetic mutations, congenital malformations, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes and can impair intellectual ability and shorten the life span.
The following health data was compiled by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service in 1998 (www.nirs.org). It compares the increase in disease from exposure to radiation to a relevant baseline.
PERCENT INCREASE IN CANCER INCIDENCE, CANCER MORTALITY, AND OTHER HEALTH EFFECTS OF HUMAN EXPOSURE TO IONIZING RADIATION
The whole body can be damaged by radiation exposure but among body systems the thyroid gland is especially vulnerable. It is located on the lower part of the neck and weighs only about one ounce, yet it has an enormous effect on overall body functions. A malfunctioning thyroid can manifest symptoms physically, mentally and emotionally. It can be a factor in heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, allergies, auto immune disease and repeated infections. In general, low thyroid function reduces human operating potential. According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists more than 27 million Americans have thyroid problems. A key variable in the recent epidemic of thyroid dysfunction is exposure to radioactivity.
The 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear power plant accident caused a great number of malfunctioning thyroids and a ten-fold increase in thyroid cancer in twelve adjacent countries after the gas cloud containing radioactive iodine-131 spread over the region.
Even if there were never another nuclear power plant accident, their routine operations release radioactive Iodine-131, which has been documented to cause hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer.
Two reports from 2009 by the Radiation and Public Health Project document the health impact of radioactive Iodine-131 as released from the normal operation of nuclear power plants. The first report discusses the nearly double rate of hypothyroidism in newborns near the Indian Point nuclear reactors (30 miles north of New York City) compared to the U.S. rate. The second article details the incidence of thyroid cancer in an area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and southern New York, a region that has 16 nuclear power reactors.
The following report is an examination of the high rate of hypothyroidism in newborns near the Indian Point reactors in New York state. From 1997 to 2007, in the 20 mile radius around the plant there was a 92% higher rate of hypothyroidism than the overall U.S. rate.
NEWBORN HYPOTHYROIDISM NEAR THE INDIAN POINT NUCLEAR PLANT
Joseph Mangano, Executive Director(Note: Numbers in the text refer to references at the end)
Radiation and Public Health Project
November 25, 2009 Available online at:
BACKGROUND – HYPOTHYROIDISM AND RADIATION EXPOSURE
Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland marked by low levels of thyroid hormone (thyroxine) and high levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
“For years, scientists have established a causal relationship between radiation exposure and hypothyroidism. In particular, radioactive iodine (which seeks out the thyroid gland, and destroys cells) is linked with the disease.
“Residents of the Marshall Islands were exposed to high levels of fallout from atomic bomb tests during the 1950s. Subsequent studies documented a number of Marshallese children with hypothyroidism, also known as cretinism. Because there was no treatment for the disease at the time, and because thyroid hormone is critical to physical and mental growth, these children often were dwarfs suffering from mental retardation.
“Low doses of radioactive iodine have also been linked with high hypothyroidism rates. In the nine months after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, there were 9 cases of the disease among Pennsylvania newborns. Eight of the 9 were babies born to the east (downwind) of the Three Mile Island plant.
SCREENING NEWBORNS FOR HYPOTHYROIDISM, AND RISING RATES
“All 50 U.S. states now have mandatory newborn screening programs for a variety of disorders, including hypothyroidism. National rates have been rising during the past several decades. One recent medical journal article documented a 73% rise in the U.S. rate from 1987 to 2002.(1) This trend is parallel to the sharp increase in the U.S. thyroid cancer (all ages) rate, which rose 155% from 1980 to 2006. It is unclear whether the increase in newborn hypothyroidism is due to better detection or other factors.
HYPOTHYROIDISM IN NEWBORNS NEAR INDIAN POINT
“Because U.S. atomic bomb tests above the ground ceased in 1963, and all tests ceased in 1992, the only current source of environmental radioactive iodine is emissions from nuclear power plants. The oldest and largest plant in New York State is Indian Point. One reactor at the site ran from 1962-1974, while the other two started in 1973 and 1976.
“According to official records maintained by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Indian Point emitted the 5th highest amount of airborne radioactive iodine of all U.S. nuclear plants from 1970-1993. The Indian Point total of 17.5 curies exceeds the official total of 14.2 released during the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. (2)
“Four New York counties flank Indian Point, and nearly all residents of these counties live within 20 miles of Indian Point. The New York State Newborn Screening Program provided numbers of newborn hypothyroidism cases for each of these counties for each year between 1997 and 2007.
“Results of this screening program show that the 1997-2007 four-county newborn hypothyroidism rate was 92.4% greater, or nearly double, the U.S. rate, based on 208 confirmed cases in the 11-year period. Each county’s rate exceeds the national rate, and both Rockland and Westchester rates were more than double the U.S. rate. The highest rates are in the most recent years; the 2005-2007 local rate was 151.4% above the U.S. rate.
Rates of newborn hypothyroidism in counties closest to the Indian Point nuclear plant are roughly double the U.S. rate. While many factors may account for this pattern, none are obvious. The fact that Indian Point has released more radioactive iodine into the air than most U.S. nuclear plants suggests that these releases may represent one causal factor.
“Results are consistent with the recent journal article showing the local rate of thyroid cancer is 66% greater than the U.S. rate.(3) Exposure to radioactive iodine raises risk of both thyroid cancer and hypothyroidism.
“As the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission considers a
proposal to extend the Indian Point licenses for 20 years, it is important
that information such as local rates of newborn hypothyroidism be made
available to the public and to decision makers.”
New York State and in the United States. Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, Volume
94, Issue 1, May 2008, p. 140.
Power Plants, 1993 Report. NUREG/CR-2907. Upton NY: Brookhaven National
Laboratory, 1995. Nuclear plants with highest 1970-1993 airborne emissions of Iodine-
131 and particulates are Dresden IL (97.22 curies), Oyster Creek NJ (77.05), Millstone
CT (32.80), Quad Cities IL (26.95), and Indian Point NY (17.50).
Cluster Near Nuclear Reactors in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
International Journal of Health Services, Volume 39, Issue 4, October 2009, pp. 643-661.
GEOGRAPHIC VARIATION IN U.S. THYROID CANCER INCIDENCE,
Joseph J. Mangano (2009)
International Journal of Health Services, vol. 39, no 4. pp 643-661
16 pages, including references. Available online at:
From 1980 to 2006, annual U.S. thyroid cancer incidence rose nearly threefold, from 4.33 to 11.03 cases per 100,000 (age adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population). This increase has been steady, rising in 22 of 26 years, and has been most pronounced since the early 1990s.(1) Along with liver/bile duct cancer, incidence of thyroid cancer has experienced the greatest increase of any type of malignancy (Appendix 1). Temporal trends during this period were consistent (between +137% and +181%) for males, females, blacks, and whites. Rates have risen markedly for all age groups except for children and the very old (Appendix 2). The expected annual number of newly diagnosed U.S. thyroid cancer cases has reached 37,340. Improvements in treatment have raised survival rates; by 2006, the prevalence of U.S. thyroid cancer survivors was 410,404, and is increasing by more than 20,000 each year.
"This significant and largely unexpected rise in U.S. thyroid cancer incidence is consistent with reports of similar increases in many other developed nations, including Scotland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Australia, England, Wales, and Canada. (2-11) A recent study concluded that the rise in U.S. thyroid cancer incidence is a function of improved diagnostic techniques, especially for papillary malignancies, which account for the large majority of thyroid cancer cases.(12) Another report contradicts this conclusion, contending that improved detection only accounts for a portion of the increase, and other factors should be explored.(13)
“A frequently employed means of understanding reasons for disease patterns is that of geographic variation. Studies of U.S. cancer incidence and mortality at the state, county, congressional district, and state economic area levels have been made.(14-17) 'Cancer mapping' techniques can be useful in generating etiological hypotheses.(18) While variations in cancer rates are often due to risk factors, screening rates, and effectiveness of treatments, some conclude that cancer is often caused by environmental factors.(19)
“The first national U.S. cancer incidence data base can be particularly helpful in studying low-incidence cancers with relatively low mortality rates. (20-21) Thyroid cancer is relatively uncommon (2-3% of incident cases in the U.S.) and has one of the highest survival rates of any cancer, making mortality data of little use.
“There have been few attempts to assess geographic differences in thyroid cancer incidence. However, at least two reports have documented a wide variation between nations.(22-23) One of these (23) cited the many studies that document sensitivity of the thyroid gland to radiation-induced oncogenesis from exposure to radioiodine isotopes. Affected populations include survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs and Nevada, Semlja, and Marshall Island bomb tests, along with the Chernobyl accident.
“The purpose of this report is to compare thyroid cancer
incidence rates across U.S. states
(note: numbers refer to references in the complete article.)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To expand on the above the reader is referred to chapter 3 which discusses the fact that ongoing, small amounts of radioactivity can do a large amount of harm to human health. Chapter 5 contains references from medical journals and books about health damage from exposure to radioactivity.
Book on Radio-protective Foods:
Radiation Shield: Protect Yourself from Low-Level Radiation
by the Foods You Eat
“Health effects of low-level radiation include the induction of cancer, genetically determined ill health, developmental abnormalities, and some degenerative diseases.”Dr. John Gofman MD, PhD
“There is hope we can achieve a healthier future for ourselves...provided that we are willing to learn from our mistakes (i.e. nuclear power).”Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Ernest J. Sternglass