Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local News & Opinion

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Travel
Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

02.10 Supreme court to block Obama's sweeping climate change plan

02.09 These microscopic phytoplankton can be seen from space. And they're disappearing rapidly.

02.09 Air pollution raises risk of death 'for decades after exposure'

02.08 Sailing ships back in vogue as a green alternative to conventional shipping [Cool! New ships to be automated—think motorized sails]

02.08 UN agency seeks to end rift on new aircraft emission rules

02.08 The deadly toll of city smog

02.08 Surge in privatisation threatening free NHS treatment, unions say

News Media Matters

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

02.10 Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump Ride the Populist Wave

02.10 5 takeaways from New Hampshire

02.10 David Brooks begins a conservative 12-step program — after eight years of giving right-wing looniness the cover of his respectability

02.09 Overwhelming Majority of Americans Believe that Both Parties Are Too Corrupt to Change Anything ... Want a Revolution

02.09 G.O.P. Lawmakers Snub Obama’s Final Budget Sight Unseen

02.09 Bernie Sanders may win big this week. Our panelists share why he has their vote

02.08 The secrets behind the Koch brothers: Inside the remarkable new book that details their dirtiest deeds

02.08 In the age of all-American anger: Bernie Sanders, “The Big Short” & a nation that’s had it up to here

Justice Matters

02.10 Texas prosecutor officially disbarred for sending innocent man to death row

02.10 Restoring Voting Rights for Felons in Maryland

High Crimes?

02.08 Flint’s Crisis Is About More Than Water

Economics, Crony Capitalism

02.10 The five fears stalking the global banking industry

02.10 Stock market rout intensifies amid fears central banks are 'out of ammunition'

02.09 Oil Dictator Dominos

02.09 Robert Reich: Democrats can’t give in to defeatism

02.09 'Panic situation': Asian stocks tumble amid fears of new global recession

02.09 What's holding back the world economy?

International

02.10 Netanyahu plans fence around Israel to protect it from 'wild beasts'

02.09 Erdogan Threatened Europe with Refugees, now Demanding US abandon Syrian Kurds

02.09 It's not just water that's poisoning our kids; it's also our collapsing democracy

02.08 Brexit could lead to Jungle camp moving to England, No 10 to warn

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  Print view: Health and the Nuclear Gamble
MEDICAL ANALYSIS:

Health and the Nuclear Gamble

The tragedy in Japan underscores the interconnectedness of our planet. Energy decisions made anywhere can affect all of us.

by Robert F. Dodge, M.D.
The amazing fact is not that the radiation that reaches our shores is described as low-level at the present time, but that it reaches us at all, traveling 5000 miles from Japan.

The world has anxiously watched the events in Japan unfolding this past two weeks after the horrific earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster. The feelings are magnified out of a sense of helplessness in aiding the victims in Japan mixed with concerns for potential effects and implications to our own health and communities. In assessing the devastating effects of natural disasters, we must pause as we consider the potential for catastrophic effects of manmade disasters, specifically from nuclear power plants.

The radiation effects of this disaster are unknown at the present time, with greatest concern for the firefighters and those workers and people in the immediate vicinity of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Unfortunately the news has gotten worse on a daily basis and has not been entirely forthcoming or transparent. We have moved from reassurance of no leakage to a small fissure in the containment chamber to the leaking of critical water from the cooling pools with variable releases of highly radioactive isotopes to the probability of a breach of the containment vessel that houses the nuclear core. The latter poses the greatest threat.

Fortunately the risk and radiation detected at our shores appears nominal at the present time. However our own National Academy of Sciences has stated that any exposure to radiation increases a person’s risk of cancer. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. The amazing fact is not that the radiation that reaches our shores is described as low-level at the present time, but that it reaches us at all, traveling 5000 miles from Japan. This underscores the interconnectedness of our planet and energy decisions made anywhere in the world. With nuclear power and all of its safeguards, it remains imperfect, and with the fragility of human technology there always exists the possibility of a nuclear accident with its risk of radioactivity release.

These invisible radioactive isotopes are intensely toxic to humans. Our bodies when exposed to them incorporate them into our cells as though they were life-giving molecules. This is coupled with their extended half-lives, where they can persist for years promoting health risks. Thus far Iodine 131 and Cesium 137 have been the two isotopes confirmed at present in the Japan tragedy. Iodine 131 has a half-life of eight days and is taken up by the thyroid gland, where it emits radioactivity, increasing the risk for thyroid cancer. Cesium 137, with its half-life of 30 years, is handled by the body like potassium, which is rapidly disseminated throughout our entire bodies where it can cause burns, radiation sickness, cancer (particularly of the soft tissues), and death.

The other isotopes of concern are Strontium 90 and Plutonium 239. Strontium 90, with its half-life of 29 years, is utilized by the body like calcium, depositing it in teeth and bone where it can cause cancer of the bone, bone marrow and soft tissues around the bone. Finally, Plutonium 239 is the most dangerous isotope. Its cancer-causing ionizing radiation risk can be either as an external hazard from outside the body or internal hazard by ingestion or inhalation, where it presents a significant lung cancer risk. Once it circulates through the body, it exposes the blood, kidneys, liver, and spleen to its cancer-causing alpha particles.

At the present time, Iodine 131 has been found in the drinking water in Tokyo at levels 200 percent above the allowable for infants and children, who are the most vulnerable to its cancer-causing effects. Milk and food within the region are showing radioactive contamination. The water within the Reactor 3, which is a mixed-oxide fuel reactor of plutonium and uranium, has shown radiation levels 10,000 times that typically seen.

As physicians our ability to respond to these potential toxins is woefully inadequate, focusing mainly on supportive care and comfort measures.

As physicians our ability to respond to these potential toxins is woefully inadequate, focusing mainly on supportive care and comfort measures while observing for the delayed effects of these agents. As with most serious illnesses in medicine, prevention is the best practice. As physicians, it is our obligation to do whatever we can to prevent illness.

If there were to be a meltdown, it would have the radiation potential of about 1,000 Hiroshima bombs in only one core. Chernobyl was comparable to 400 Hiroshimas.

If there were to be a meltdown, there is the potential for an astonishing release of radioactive material. We are talking about the radiation potential of about 1,000 Hiroshima bombs in only one core. Chernobyl was comparable to 400 Hiroshimas.

As the world grapples with this latest complex compound disaster, a serious reflection and reconsideration of our own nuclear power industry is in order. Nuclear energy is too risky, too dirty and too expensive. Are these risks to the health of our children and community ones we are willing to take? We need investment in safer energy sources, in particular renewable sources. As long as nuclear power plants exist, prevention of nuclear accidents is paramount. We also must have local disaster preparedness efforts and make ourselves aware of them.


Robert F. Dodge, M.D., is a Board Member of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and serves as that organization's and Peace and Securities Ambassador.



Copyright © 2010 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.

This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on March 26, 2011.

 


Public Service Ads: