Who to Believe in regard to the effects of radiation exposure

One lesson from Chapter 3 of Morgan’s book, The Angry Genie, quoted in the previous post, is that levels of radiation exposure doses considered safe by authorities do produce, decades later , a cause of death which is more likely to be radiation related than had the allegedly safe exposures not taken place. The workers involved were all adults when they commenced working in the environment of a radiation lab or in the industrial plants operated in the United States. Nuclear industry and governmental organisations disagree that the exposures shortened lives. Arguments about this have taken place in the scientific literature for decades. I have covered this theme over a number of posts in 2010 and 2011. It is the industry style arguments which have guided policy in Japan since the Fukushima accident. This is my understanding and based on government statements. It is the government which determines what is safe or unsafer, and the people often have little choice but to live where they live, for many cannot afford to do anything else.

It is clear that in the case of high doses, the link between radiation exposure and the health of the individual after exposure is more likely to be accepted by authorities because the effect of a high dose produces illness within a short space of time. (Though there are cases where even events such as this are refuted by authorities). If a person’s signs and symptoms complies with a collection of effects which is diagnosed as “Acute Radiation Syndrome”, then the authorities will consider accepting radiation as the cause. The cause, radiation exposure, is in the very name of the syndrome.

However, Morgan in Chapter 3 is very vague in terms of symptoms relating to the victims of the lower doses. He states: “Even the individual who received only 22.8 rad showed some symptoms of radiation injury.” 22 Rad is not a low dose. d In my little period as a radiation worker in a radiation laboratory/military setting, such a dose would have been seen as very serious. The permissible doses were measured in milli rad. None the less, Morgan does not say, at this point in his book, what the symptoms produced by 22 rad were. And I assume he means immediate symptoms.

The thought I wish to convey is this: In the accident described in Chapter 3 of his book presented as a primarily external radiation risk. Sudden release of neutron and gamma radiation. Once the people left the scene, their exposure ceased. The area was cleaned up and things went back to normal. No one was forced to work thereafter on work benches covered in radioactive dust, and the air was not contaminated by radioactive dust. Or at least, these aspects after the accident returned to what was considered to be normal levels of radiation (to be brief) for that work site.

In humans living in a contaminated area, radioactive substances move into and out of select tissues and are constantly taken up, stored and excreted. Over a period a particular radionuclide may build up to an “equilibrium dose”, where uptake rates and excretion rates result in an amount in tissues which is the highest it can possibly be.

Inhalation pathways are another matter in addition to sources from diet.

Biological half life of a radion-nuclide is defined at Wikipedia as follows: “The biological half-life or elimination half-life of a substance is the time it takes for a substance (for example a metabolite, drug, signalling molecule, radioactive nuclide, or other substance) to lose half of its pharmacologic, physiologic, or radiologic activity, as per the MeSH definition. In a medical context, half-life may also describe the time it takes for the blood plasma concentration of a substance to halve (“plasma half-life”) its steady-state. The relationship between the biological and plasma half-lives of a substance can be complex depending on the substance in question, due to factors including accumulation in tissues, active metabolites, and receptor interactions.[1]
Biological half-life is an important pharmacokinetic parameter and is usually denoted by the abbreviation t½.[2]
While a radioactive isotope decays perfectly according to first order kinetics where the rate constant is fixed, the elimination of a substance from a living organism, into the environment, follows more complex kinetics. See the article rate equation.” Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_half-life

The biological half lives of the radioactive substances which are biologically significant are known. For plutonium the Biological Half Life is 200 years (Source: Wikipedia citing the publication DOE staff. “Radiological control technical training”. U.S. Department of Energy. Archived from the original on June 30, 2007. Retrieved December 14, 2008.) The Biological Half Life is quite different from the radionuclide’s half life .

For Cesium 137 the Biological Half life is given as being about 70 days by Wikipedia, citing R. Nave, writing in Hyperphysics.

The Biological Half life of Iodine 131 is describes by the US EPA as follows: “In the body, iodine has a biological half-life of about 100 days for the body as a whole. It has different biological half-lives for various organs: thyroid – 100 days, bone – 14 days, and kidney, spleen, and reproductive organs – 7 days.” http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/radionuclides/iodine.html

Inhalation is one way radio nuclildes accumulate in the body. While it is true that most of the material we normally breath in is exhaled or removed from the lung tissue by normal lung cleansing mechanisms – if this were not true our lungs would be very congested – the normal mechanisms cannot be credited with removing everything. This is shown by the acknowledged diseases that asbestos causes as a result of not being removed from the lung – though asbestos is a specific example, it shows a principle. Not everything that is breathed out is removed. While there is a dose from the normal breathing cycle, in which one can say most material inhaled is exhaled, one cannot , I believe, say that all is removed. And this is borne out by inhalation studies using beagle dogs. Some of these studies show that plutonium dust breathed in by Beagle dogs was indeed retained in the lung and in fact, some of the plutonium moved from lung to lymph and to the lymph nodes. One such experiment to show this is the following (the abstract being reproduced here):

“Radiat Res. 1996 Mar;145(3):361-81.
Toxicity of inhaled plutonium dioxide in beagle dogs.
Muggenburg BA, Guilmette RA, Mewhinney JA, Gillett NA, Mauderly JL, Griffith WC, Diel JH, Scott BR, Hahn FF, Boecker BB.
Inhalation Toxicology Research Institute, Alburquerque, New Mexico 87185, USA.
This study was conducted to determine the biological effects of inhaled 238PuO2 over the life spans of 144 beagle dogs. The dogs inhaled one of two sizes of monodisperse aerosols of 238PuO2 to achieve graded levels of initial lung burden (ILB). The aerosols also contained 169Yb to provide a gamma-ray-emitting label for the 238Pu inhaled by each dog. Excreta were collected periodically over each dog’s life span to estimate plutonium excretion; at death, the tissues were analyzed radiochemically for plutonium activity. The tissue content and the amount of plutonium excreted were used to estimate the ILB. These data for each dog were used in a dosimetry model to estimate tissue doses. The lung, skeleton and liver received the highest alpha-particle doses, ranging from 0.16-68 Gy for the lung, 0.08-8.7 Gy for the skeleton and 0.18-19 for the liver. At death all dogs were necropsied, and all organs and lesions were sampled and examined by histopathology. Findings of non-neoplastic changes included neutropenia and lymphopenia that developed in a dose-related fashion soon after inhalation exposure. These effects persisted for up to 5 years in some animals, but no other health effects could be related to the blood changes observed. Radiation pneumonitis was observed among the dogs with the highest ILBs. Deaths from radiation pneumonitis occurred from 1.5 to 5.4 years after exposure. Tumors of the lung, skeleton and liver occurred beginning at about 3 years after exposure. Bone tumors found in 93 dogs were the most common cause of death. Lung tumors found in 46 dogs were the second most common cause of death. Liver tumors, which were found in 20 dogs but were the cause of death in only two dogs, occurred later than the tumors in bone and lung. Tumors in these three organs often occurred in the same animal and were competing causes of death. These findings in dogs suggest that similar dose-related biological effects could be expected in humans accidentally exposed to 238PuO2.
PMID: 8927705 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8927705

So you can see inhaled plutonium can move around a fair bit in the tissues of Beagles, and any amount is not “perfectly safe”. As some fanatics claim. It is better to not have plutonium in the air than to have any government tell its people that an external dose from plutonium is perfectly safe.

And I am trying to work up, at this point, to Karl Morgan’s experience with radiation dose and physical amount of radionuclide and their impacts on health outcomes for exposed people.

It is certainly the case that Australia’s experience with land contaminated by nuclear activity at nuclear test sites is one in which the substance of most concern is plutonium. Even after millions of dollars was spent cleaning up the affected site, an area remains which remains unfit for permanent residence by the traditional owners.

Australia has a history of plutonium contamination at one of its nuclear test sites. The occupants of an area desired as a nuclear test site were forcibly removed. Nuclear testing took place. The testing finished. The authorities declared the area clean and safe. This authority was the British government. The Australian government repeated what it had been told to the Australian people. From this time, during the 1960s, various people, including Australian nuclear veterans claimed that the information was force, and that the land was contaminated with plutonium. Decades past. After years of battling this and other nuclear issues, nuclear veterans and other victims were able to participate in an investigation known as a Royal Commission. For the purposes of this, the Australian government graciously allowed military personnel to speak the truth without fear of being jailed. Earlier, this threat was a risk to the truth being told. Many had taken the risk in order to help achieve the investigation.

When the Australian finally got around to testing the nuclear test site for contamination, it found that the veterans and other witnesses were right. The nuclear test sire was heavily contaminated with plutonium, made worse by earlier British attempts to clean it up – they had ploughed the desert, ensuring the plutonium was more easily blown by the wind.

And of course, from that time on Australians realized that not only had Britain lied, but that the Australian government had lied. It had assured Australians it knew everything and in fact, if you believe the public account, it knew less than diddly squat. (I don’t believe the public account. Australian knew, I think. ).

So what can we say when an Army private is actually proven by a Royal Commission to know more than a Prime Minister who approved the use of the test site in the first place?

In whom do you place your trust? The authorities or the people who shout a warning?

Of course, governments called the nuclear veterans and aboriginal people who shouted warnings “scaremongers” “given to myths”. And some veterans got legally threatening phone calls in the middle of the night. Decades later it was should that newspapers eagerly suppressed information at the slightest suggestion by government that stories should not be printed. Not for National Security reasons, but , as it turns so the government could save itself from voters.

Would you believe such a thing? I do.

And so today I read about events in other lands and see a mirror image of what once happened here.

Up out of the ashes of past lies comes the same old routines of deception. This is my perception of events in Japan. This is what Japanese news stories bring forth in me.

So how much of Japan is contaminated anyway? Next post, I will quote an article which looks at that. Isotopic half life, biological half life, uptake routes, and assurances of safety.

If you ask an aboriginal Australian how many aboriginal people died from bomb smoke in 1953, you will get an answer that is very different to the Australian government answer. Still. No one knows but the witnesses. And that will always be the case. Often ordinary people truly experience what government considers to be impossible. In public. Not every country is like America, where many many documents are declassified and made available. What might take 30 years or less in the USA might take 200 in England to declassify. So, I will be dead of old age before perhaps some document is released in England which finally contain the official acknowledgement long sought from witnesses isolated out in the bush when the bomb smoke rolled through.

Believe who you like I suppose, and hope like hell it never happens to you.

Plutonium is not safe to eat or breath. Neither is strontium or cesium or iodine or any of the others.

One Response to “Who to Believe in regard to the effects of radiation exposure”

  1. CaptD Says:

    My “Rule of Thumb”: Less Is By Far The Best!

    What you cannot see or taste or smell or touch can be radioactive and you will never know it usually until it is too late…

    Remember one person could inhale a radioactive particle while everyone standing next to them does not, that alone is reason enough to be very weary of radioactive “dust”, especially since the Japanese are burning radioactive debris 24/7, a practice that should be condemned by the the UN/IAEA as Global ☢ Pollution…

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