Radiation response a meltdown in reason
Posted on: July 14th, 2011 by Marketing and Communications Flinders University South Australia
“Professor Sykes, recently appointed to the University’s Strategic Professorship in Preventive Cancer Biology in the Flinders Centre for Cancer Prevention and Control says the public panic in response to nuclear accidents such as that at Fukushima in Japan is the result of a general ignorance about radiation. – See more at: http://blogs.flinders.edu.au/flinders-news/2011/07/14/radiation-response-a-meltdown-in-reason/#sthash.Xn4EzGSx.dpuf
“The area of low dose radiation is relatively new to me” : Pam Sykes, letter to Paul Langley, January 2002.
The area of low dose radiation is relatively old hat to me. I enjoyed my job, which in part consisted of considering low dose, medium dose and high dose radiation. At a basic level. Part of my duties included the use of a scintillator to examine every floor and work surface in the lab for hot particles. The Australian Army at that time “believed” (knew, actually) that such existed as substances which must be controlled and contained. I found my job interesting and looked forward to arriving at work to charge up the dosimeters and zero set them.
The dose vector of concern in my old military workplace was that produced by internalised radioactive particles. Sykes experiments focus entirely upon external dose delivery.
The difference between the two has long been known. For example:
The Metabolism of the Fission Products and the Heaviest Elements
Jos. G. Hamilton, M.D.
+ Author Affiliations
Division of Medical Physics (Berkeley), Divisions of Medicine and Radiology (San Francisco) University of California
↵1 This document is based on work performed under Contract No. W-7405-eng-48-A for the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission.
Introduction and Methods During the early phases of the development of the Plutonium Project, it became apparent that one of the most serious problems to be encountered was the protection of personnel working in this field against the immense quantities of radiation and radioactive materials produced by the chain-reacting pile. The most important hazard that arises from the release of nuclear energy are radiations produced directly from fission and subsequently emitted by the resultant fission products and plutonium. The fission products can produce injury either as an external source of radiation or, if they gain entry into the body, by acting as an internal radioactive poison, quite analogous to radium poisoning. This latter consideration is a major concern, since the amounts required within the body to produce injurious effects are minute compared to the quantities necessary to induce damage by external beta and gamma irradiation.
The relationship between the work of Sykes et al to the work of Hamilton is resolved by Hamilton in his comment I have highlighted in bold.
An experimenter relatively new to these concepts has to understand that comments made regarding one type of dose vector do not apply to a different type of dose vector.
Sykes et al talk in units of radiation. Hamilton in the above text acknowledged the importance of units of wieght in the context of internalised radio emitters.
Flinders University has no right, authority or mandate to claim panic when there is none and has no basis for providing a characterisation of internal emitters as being vitamins and beneficial minerals. Such statements flies in the face of the findings funded under Contract No. W-7405-eng-48-A for the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission as granted to Hamilton et al.
I forget what Pam’s DOE contract number is. The logical extension of the term “radiophobe” aimed by Flinders University at people who disagree with its edicts is that General Groves and all his staff and contractors, including Hamilton and the Occupation Forces who entered Hiroshima and Nagaski in September 1945 were radiophobes in a state of panic.
History reveals however, it would have been wiser for them if they had been.
Public disagreement in a democracy is not a sign of panic on the part of the public. Though strong disagreement between authorities and the public is a recognised cause of worry among authorities. Especially elected ones.
Any authority who diagnoses disagreement in a democracy as disease, eg “radiophobia” is an authority who seems incompatible with life in an open society.
Nuclear industry has a major economic problem with the findings of Hamilton, 1942 on. While an Army in its military labs can afford to ensure total containment of sealed sources, at the industrial scale, such an undertaking is uneconomic. It eats into profits and is impossible to ensure anyway in large establishments. This failure to contain is what is demonstrated at the industrial level by the events and activities at the Fukushima Diiachi NPP complex Japan. There, the storage of re captured water containing radio chemicals is measured in the tons. This tonnage represents a mere fraction of the total release, which will never be recaptured.
In it’s web publication of July 2011, “Radiation Response a Meltdown in Reason” Flinders University makes the further following claims:
“And the frightening thing is that it’s been estimated that throughout Europe there were over 100,000 wanted pregnancies aborted, and these were people who didn’t live anywhere near Chernobyl.”
Flinders University cites no source for this claim. On checking for surveys of women throughout who wanted their baby but who underwent abortion because of radiophobia induced by the reactor accident – a most tragic and traumatic event for every woman involved – I found relevant papers online. Three of them are listed and quoted here. One problem was I could not find any qualified papers which recorded and reported the number of woman who undertook abortion for the reason given by Flinders University. The best one can do is compare numbers and rates of abortion before and after the reactor accident of 1986. Abortions happen every year in Europe and have done for quite sometime.
Biomed Pharmacother. 1991;45(6):225-8.
Incidence of legal abortion in Sweden after the Chernobyl accident.
Odlind V, Ericson A.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Uppsala, Academic Hospital, Sweden.
The number of legal abortions in Sweden increased around the time of the Chernobyl accident, particularly in the summer and autumn of 1986. Although there was no recording of reasons for legal abortions, one might have suspected this increase to be a result of fear and anxiety after the accident.
However, seen over a longer time perspective, the increase in the number of abortions started before and continued far beyond the time of the accident. There was also a simultaneous and pronounced increase in the number of births during the years subsequent to the accident.
Therefore, it seems unlikely that fear of the consequences of radioactive fall-out after the Chernobyl accident resulted in any substantial increase of the number of legal abortions in Sweden.
Biomed Pharmacother. 1991;45(6):229-31.
Legally induced abortions in Denmark after Chernobyl.
Danish National Board of Health, Sundhedsstyrelsen, Copenhagen K, Denmark.
During the months following the accident in Chernobyl, Denmark experienced an increasing rate of induced abortion, especially in regions with the largest measured increase in radiation. As the increase in radiation in Denmark was so low that almost no increased risk of birth defects was expected, the public debate and anxiety among the pregnant women and their husbands “caused” more fetal deaths in Denmark than the accident. This underlines the importance of public debate, the role of the mass media and of the way in which National Health authorities participate in this debate.
Reduction of births in Italy after the Chernobyl accident
by Roberto Bertollini, MD, MPH,’ Domenico Di Lallo, MD,’ Pierpaolo Mastroiacovo, MD,2
Carlo A Perucci, MD’
BERTOLLINI R, DI LALLO D, MASTROIACOVO P, PERUCCI CA. Reduction of births in Italy after
the Chernobyl accident. Scand J Work Environ Health 1990;16:96-101.
After the Chernobyl accident serious concern spread throughout Italy about the possible effects of the consequent exposure to radioac-tivity on fetuses. A reduction of births in the first three months of 1987, and particularly in February (7.2070 reduction in the birth rate), was observed throughout Italy. In April-June 1987 a 4.8 % increase in the number of births was observed. The magnitude of both phenomena varied in different areas of the country. The total number of births in the first six months of 1987 was very similar to the expected
(264241 versus 263 659). Induced abortions increased in Lombardia (northern Italy) in June ( + 1.6 %)
and July of 1986 ( +3 . 4 %) and in Campania (southern Italy) in June ( + 12.7 %) and August ( +4 . 3 %) .
No increase in legal abortions was detectedin Lazio (central Italy). Italian data suggest a voluntary decrease in the number of planned pregnancies and the termination of some of them in the first weeks after the accident as a consequence of post disaster stress.” end quote.
The situation varied across the affected areas of Europe.
The IAEA described Chernobyl as a Level 7 Major Accident, defined as an accident in with “widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.” The effects and the boundaries of those effects should be at least broadly explained within the definition of the category. IAEA categories should be self sufficient. They should aid certainty. They should not encourage uncertainty. How the IAEA nuclear emergency notification regime contributed to the brief period of “disaster stress” in Italy remains to be seen.
Analysis. by Paul Langley
Odlind V, Ericson A., contradict Sykes while Knudsen LB. finds, “anxiety”, not panic or hysteria. No numbers are given. Knudsen provides a finer analysis than Sykes. Bertollini et al provide a sophisticated report of regional variation and a finds overall a deliberate reduction in pregnancies among Italians. Of these pregnancies, “some” were terminated.
In all three cases, the woman’s and the family’s right to act in a democracy is highlighted. In the case of Denmark, an historic event may have left a social imprint.
In Dec 1957 Danish health authorities attributed an increase in radioactivity over Denmark to the Windscale graphite core reactor fire in England. Memory of that event, and any impacts of it, may have been passed down from mother to daughter. Appendix A below indicates that this certainly might have been the case in England itself. The paper indicates that Downs Syndrome becomes much more likely where the mother is in a vulnerable age range and is additionally subject to low levels of ionising radiation during pregnancy. The nation of Denmark considered the Windscale fallout to be a serious matter in 1957. England hid the details of the event for a number of decades and the exact fallout path remains controversial. The Danish military did detect a significant fallout plume over Danish territory.
The medical record shows that there is an increasing risk of birth defects as Paternal age increases. (For instance, Epidemiology. 1995 May;6(3):282-8.Paternal age and the risk of birth defects in offspring.
McIntosh GC, Olshan AF, Baird PA. School of Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA.)
The risk of Downs Syndrome increases rapidly after Maternal age advances through the third decade of life.
It could be that the regional variation across Europe in regard to termination of pregnancy in the wake of Chernobyl reflects the age related risks self determining people are well aware of.
The “slight” additional risk contributed by the Chernobyl disaster presented older women with an additonal unplanned uncertainty, no matter how small.
Sykes has not considered risk weighting by older mothers (ie older than 34) as a factor in terminations in the aftermath of Chernobyl.
Such risk assessments and responses by families is actually a tragic and deliberate task rather than the hysterical one Sykes seems to think it is.
Many such older mothers may have sought qualified medical advice prior to deciding whether to proceed or to terminate their pregnancies. Sykes does not provide any analysis of such considerations. See Appendix A.
Sykes does not give the number of women who terminated pregancy on the basis of sound medical advice. Yet such women cannot be considered to be doing anything other than following doctors’ advice. In such cases such a decision cannot be ascribed to “radiophobia” but rather to the additional risk an older mother has to face as a result of the actions of nuclear industry.
Perhaps the problem was that the Chernobyl reactor did in fact blow up. That fact caused widespread panic within the nuclear industry and its promotional organisations. Controlling public perceptions of the consequences of that event apparently remains a priority for nuclear authorities.
Sykes concentrates only on areas distant from the Chernobyl reactor: quote: ” “And the frightening thing is that it’s been estimated that throughout Europe there were over 100,000 wanted pregnancies aborted, and these were people who didn’t live anywhere near Chernobyl.”
What happened in regard to both abortions and live births in Belarus and Urkraine? Why does Flinders University not choose to look the events close in to the Chernobyl accident? Why does the reader of the piece have their eyes turned away from the close in zone? What are we supposed to look at there? Did the abortion rate go up? Were the babies all born healthy? Was there an increase in birth complications and other negative outcomes? Was there nothing to worry about close in? How much fallout is a beneficial dose for a pregnant mother in Ukraine in 1986? Pam’s mice do not give any clue. Neither does Flinders University in its supposedly highly qualified and expert paper.
J Epidemiol Community Health. 1995 April; 49(2): 164–170.
Down’s syndrome: prevalence and ionising radiation in an area of north west England 1957-91.
J P Bound, B J Francis, and P W Harvey
Department of Paediatrics, Victoria Hospital, Blackpool.
This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.
OBJECTIVE–To analyse the prevalence of Down’s syndrome in a specific, geographical area and seek to explain variations with particular reference to ionising radiation. DESIGN–Cases were ascertained by one paediatrician as part of a prospective survey of major congenital malformations in children born to residents of an area of Lancashire between 1957 and 1991. Temporal changes in prevalence rates were detected by a grid search technique using Poisson log linear models. These models were also used to determine the association between prevalence and ionising radiation from atomic fall out. SETTING–The Fylde district of Lancashire in the north west of England. PATIENTS–There were 167 cases, including five stillbirths and eight terminations, among 124,015 total births in a population which increased from about 250,000 to over 300,000 during the study period. MAIN RESULTS–There was significant increase in the prevalence of all cases conceived in 1963 and 1964, and a lesser peak in 1958 which did not quite reach statistical significance. There was no evidence that the increased prevalence in 1963-64 was a result of changes in the maternal age distribution in the population. Babies of mothers aged 35 years and over accounted for more of the variation, especially in 1958 when their increase was significant. There was a highly significant association between prevalence and radiation from fallout produced by atmospheric testing of atomic weapons. The 1963-64 peak coincided with the maximum estimated radiation dose. The lesser peak in 1958 also coincided with increased exposure to radiation from fallout, possibly enhanced by ground deposits after a fire at the Windscale reactor in October 1957. CONCLUSION–This study provides further support for low dose ionising radiation as one aetiological factor in Down’s syndrome.end quote
Birth Defects in the areas close in to the Chernobyl Reactor.
The source of the photograph of an animal born deformed (below) is the Kiev-Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum
The photograph is published in the paper “Chronic radiation exposure in the Rivne-Polissia region of Ukraine: implications for birth defects.” Dancause KN, Yevtushok L, Lapchenko S, Shumlyansky I, Shevchenko G, Wertelecki W, Garruto RM.
Department of Anthropology, State University of New York, Binghamton, New York 13902-6000, USA.
The health effects of chronic low-dose radiation exposure remains a controversial question. Monitoring after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine suggested that chronic low-dose radiation exposure was not linked to cancer mortality among the general population. However, elevated rates of birth defects in contaminated compared to uncontaminated regions suggest that exposure to radiation in utero might impact development and that chronic radiation exposure might represent an underestimated risk to human health.
We sought to determine current radiation exposure routes in Rivne-Polissia, a region of Ukraine contaminated by the Chernobyl accident. This represents a first step toward comprehensive studies of the effects of chronic radiation exposure on human health. We designed and administered a dietary and activity survey to 344 women in Polissia. We assessed types and sources of food consumed, types of outdoor activities, and alcohol intake.
Alcohol intake was low and alone does not account for the observed high rates of birth defects. Wild foods, especially mushrooms and berries, and locally produced foods, especially milk related, were major radiation exposure routes. Additionally, women were exposed to radiation through inhalation while burning grasses and potato vines in fields, and wood for cooking and heating.
Twenty four years after the Chernobyl accident, women continue to be chronically exposed to low-dose radiation at levels exceeding current recommendations. This might contribute (especially synergistically with alcohol consumption and micronutrient deficiencies) to higher prevalence of birth defects in areas of Ukraine with high levels of radiation contamination compared to uncontaminated areas.
(c) 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
I submit the entire matter is misrepresented by Flinders University in its July 2011 paper “Radiation Response a Meltdown in Reason”.
I submit funding bodies, rather than impartial science, determined the content of the paper with a view to inculcate rather than to educate the public in content of the full scope of considerations, evidence and findings relating to the health impacts of internal exposure to radionuclides.
The stated aim of Flinders University was to point out “general ignorance about radiation” (Sykes) and the paper purported to provide a remedy to this.
However, the paper is based a qualification originating from research which deals excusively with low dose soft external x rays. The claims made apply these very specific findings to a totally differnt dose vector – that of internalised fission and nuclear fuel chemicals.
In fact the claims made by Flinders University in this regard in July 2011 are directly and comprehensively demonstrated to be false by Hamilton, 1942 and later. Hamilton and Sykes had and have effectively the same funding body for the Manhattan Project and AEC funded Hamilton and the AEC successor org, DOE, funds Sykes. I find there is no excuse for the modern recipients to ignore the importance of the finding by Hamilton (first made by Pecher and Aebersold in 1941, published 1942) that “The fission products can produce injury either as an external source of radiation or, if they gain entry into the body, by acting as an internal radioactive poison, quite analogous to radium poisoning. This latter consideration is a major concern, since the amounts required within the body to produce injurious effects are minute compared to the quantities necessary to induce damage by external beta and gamma irradiation. Thus, the funding body, in full possession of the earlier facts, uses its contractors in the modern era to effectively bury the valid earlier knowledge. The findings may not be contradictory for dose vectors are completely different in each case. Sykes informs me she is “relatively new” to low dose radiation. This is no excuse in the matter of extending findings relating to one dose vector to another.
The paper ironically claims the general public, of which I am a member, is “ignorant about radiation”. The paper fails to convince me of that assertion, even though I acknowledge I know diddly squat compared to Hamilton, Aebersold, Pecher, Lawrence and Stone. The people who enabled early nuclear medicine and who also provided the Manhattan District Engineers with the LD50 for P32, Sr89 and I131. None of these substances have been studied by Sykes. Yet she extends her findings regarding soft x rays to them. This is erroneous. I find Flinders University, rather than the general public “ignorant” in this matter.
I conclude that the paper itself is quite counter productive as it can be shown to contain a misleading statements, deliberate confusion of dose vectors, moralistic tones, the diagnosis of dissent in a democacy as a disease and attempts to apply social pressure to those who would disagree to shut up.
No I won’t.
I firmly believe that the public has a right to know and I further believe that laws relating to the control of nuclear information may be invoked under US law where authorities believe uncontrolled information release would be detrimental to public health.
Authorities who claim there is panic when in fact there is none aim to invoke such laws, control information and circumvent the rights of the American people. Such activity is UnAmerican. These laws are contained within the US Atomic Energy Act and associated legislation.
In the Australian setting, as soon as the expansion of the South Australian uranium mine was put on hold in August 2012, the frenzy of PR campaign fizzed down. It will start up again. Depends upon the price of uranium more than anything else.
The work of improving the treatment of cancer and the outcomes for patients, must continue. The concpet of using a high treatment dose of radiation coupled with an additional low dose exposure, using the concept of “adaptive response” is one avenue of investigation. It is an avenue of research pursued by Sykes and her team.
The merit of cancer research is not being question by me here or anywhere else by me. What is at issue here is not Flinders University as a centre of excellence in cancer research.
It is proclaimations made by Flinders University in relation to the effects of reactor accidents and of the medicalisation of dissent in a democratic society.
Cancer research should never have been used as a Trojan Horse for the delivery of political inculcation to the people of South Australia and the world on behalf of US Department of Energy and probably, the owners of the South Australian uranium mines, including BHP Billiton and General Atomics. Bechtel is in there somewhere.
From reading the work of another DOE contractor, Bobby Scott of Lovelace Institute, I do know where Flinders University gets it’s claimed figure of 100,000 abortions due to radiophobia from. Basically, Los Alamos National Labs.
In regard to the proven link between Downs Syndrome, age and low dose ionising radiation, there is another question. In the radiation affected areas of Belarus and Ukraine, what is the maternal age at which risk of Downs Syndrome appears? Is it the same as it was pre 86, earler than pre 86, or later than 1986?
In targetting the anti-nuclear movement in South Australia in its July 2011 piece,Flinders university also hits military personnel, primarily those who served on the proxy nuclear battlefields of Monte Bello, Emu Field and Maralinga. The few surviving nuclear veterans still fight for justice and their children (many afflicted because their fathers were not given salient information regarding the planning of parenthood after exposures – known by authorities but never passed on to the men) will continue the fight. (at the time, it was known that 28 days should be allowed to elapse after exposure to rid any damaged sperm. It was also known at that time that if the sperm producing cells were damaged, then risk continued over time. When men were sent on leave after exposures, they were never warned.)
The informational weaponry deployed by DOE and Flinders University against nuclear veterans is, again, the result of ignorance. Some on Sykes research team have no intuitive awareness of the disaster of the British Nuclear Tests conducted in Australia.
They appeared in July 2011 to be quite ignorant of it.
This is not a peer review. I am just a member of the general public. I hold the general public is worth listening to in matters relating to radiation in its deployment in technology in both military and civil settings. The “experts”, such as Sykes et al are not the only ones who should have access to governmental and political decision makers. This country is at present still a democracy. The claim by Flinders University of my alleged “general ignorance” will not shut me up nor will it deny me access to outlets for my opinions, beliefs and knowledge. Should only experts vote? the US Department of Energy might say yes. I say no.