The information relating to the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster issued by authorities is diverse.
Nation State approved international organisations provide documents which often disagree with information presented by independent or NGO backed qualified scientists. Some scientists in universities in different places of the world produce their own findings and conclusions as well. Thus there is extremely high contrast between views and it is hard to see. The IAEA based conclusions are the most glaring of the collection of findings and conclusions. It might be right in all it reports. It might be incorrect. Either in the main or in detail. But just because it is the biggest and brightest is no guarantee that it is the most accurate.
In my exploration of the information I have come to my conclusions. These conclusions will be contested because I do not believe in radiation Hormesis and therefore I do not represent that view.
Here is a download of a TV program presented by the ABC which explores the consequences of the disaster. It is a pdf document of key frame stills of the half hour progam. Its about 26 mb., the smallest I could make it. Both the images and the subtitles are important. http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?w7jabommt7mmsm3
I have witnessed the Maralinga Process. So I understand that official information, originally presented as fact, is sometimes, but not always, found out to be bullshit when careful gathering of evidence is eventually carried out. Such occurred, if you recall, when John Bannon and ARPANSA Scientists visited Maralinga decades after the bombs. This is public record. Sometimes it takes elected governments and their organs a number of decades to listen and appropriately respond to the people on issues government authorities dispute. (Agendas. Third Forces. Foriegn interference. These factors play a role in the ongoing Maralinga Process.) Simply because ARPANSA did an honest survey 2 decades after it was due, does not mean either that ARPANSA is a goody two shoes. It was very very very very very very slow.
So, when people in Ukraine and Belarus tell me, as they have, that they view the IAEA in the same way as many Americans viewed the AEC, I understand what they mean. I think. (There ARE issues here.)
To clarify the problem: The US AEC had the role of regulating nuclear industry, ensuring radiation safety in the USA and of conducting nuclear bomb tests.
At a certain juncture, the proportion of Americans who saw problems with that hegemony became so large that the a census (formed by both ordinary people and many scientists (but not all scientists.) was reached. As a result, things changed a little bit. (Prior to the tipping point, people who agitated for change were subject either sanction or to abuse as attempts were made to turn dissenters into pariahs by the AEC as it strove to maintain its authority over people.)
The AEC was abolished and in its place a new regulator was formed, called the NRC. The US DOE was also formed and its roles include the promotion of nuclear energy. Not that things are ever perfect. And reversals do occur. Perhaps its time America thought about a third compartment. Nuclear Medicine. Get that one out of the promotional arm as well. Medicine should not be a tool of industry.
Many people around the world, especially many living in areas affected by nuclear events which are subject to IAEA inspection in its safety (as opposed to its nuclear promotional) role are deeply distrusting of it. And these same people are deeply suspicious of the subordinate role the UN WHO has, by charter, to the UN IAEA.
To many uninvolved people the situation I have just crudely outlined will seem beyond belief. However, as a person who has watched the Maralinga Process, I see it as situation normal. I see it as the same thing, but on a planetary scale.
Rather than a former colony bringing the Motherland to account, empowered by the victims. (If the victims had not spoken up, Maralinga would still be a place subject to an international total lie. And unsafe to live in. This has been established in earlier posts. Some significant lies still remain to be revealed. SNAFU.)
I wonder how long people in other lands will have to speak up in the face of threat before authorities come clean. I am very lucky. If I lived in some lands, my government would simply pull my plug.
A backup pdf of her site is here: http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?w7jabommt7mmsm3
I made the pdf as the site is worthy of posterity. And just in case.
So far, the main opposition to this page will be coming from authoritarian regimes and the opponents of social work.
Let’s get some data.
On the Flinders University web release of July 2011, Pam Sykes states in relation to the Chernobyl disaster that : “There was an increase in thyroid tumours but weʼre not sure how much that related to the fact that everyone was screened for thyroid tumours, which wouldnʼt normally happen. ”
In relation to thyroid cancer, WHO states: “A large increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer has occurred among people who were young children and adolescents at the time of the accident and lived in the most contaminated areas of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. This was due to the high levels of radioactive iodine released from the Chernobyl reactor in the early days after the accident. Radioactive iodine was deposited in pastures eaten by cows who then concentrated it in their milk which was subsequently drunk by children. This was further exacerbated by a general iodine deficiency in the local diet causing more of the radioactive iodine to be accumulated in the thyroid…”
“In Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine nearly 5 000 cases of thyroid cancer have now been diagnosed to date among children who were aged up to 18 years at the time of the accident. While a large number of these cancers resulted from radiation following the accident, intense medical monitoring for thyroid disease among the affected population has also resulted in the detection of thyroid cancers at a sub-clinical level, and so contributed to the overall increase in thyroid cancer numbers. ”
Source: Health effects of the Chernobyl accident: an overview Fact sheet N° 303 April 2006, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs303/en/index.html
5,000 cases of thyroid cancer represents a lot of suffering, a lot of medical treatment.
We are not told by either source -Sykes or WHO, in these instances, what the increase in thyroid cancer
due to the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is.
Who concludes the publication’s section on Thyroid cancer with this statement: “It is expected that the increased incidence of thyroid cancer from Chernobyl will continue for many years, although the long-term magnitude of the risk is difficult to quantify.”
The question remains: By what amount did the incidence of Thyroid cancer in Ukraine and Belarus increase? Was it a little increase, a big increase or a very large increase?
Increased monitoring resulted in early detection – thus compressing in time detections which might otherwise have taken longer to be diagnosed, it is no reason to diminish the impact of the nuclear event in terms of human suffering. An accurate insight the actual impact of the event cannot be gained by either source. WHO states that the long term magnitude of the risk is difficult to quantify.
More cases will arise in the future as a result of the nuclear disaster. Obviously in people who were clear of the disease or pre disease state at the time of monitoring.
The figure of 5,000 will grow larger as the years go by, by how much, WHO does not know. And I still have to locate a source which gives an amount for the increased incidence of Thyroid cancer in Belarus and Ukraine.
I must look elsewhere for the information I need. However:
WHO counts the people and gives 5,000 as the number – expected to rise by a difficult to determine factor.
Sykes does not. So what is the point of her statement?
You see, I am just a layman looking for an answer. WHO gives a quanta, presents the problem in prediction, but Sykes is no help at all.
I have to go to alternate documents and probably, to different sources.
“The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl has produced the biggest group of cancers ever from a single incident, according to UK and US scientists.
Almost 2,000 cases of thyroid cancer have resulted from the reactor explosion at the Ukrainian power station 15 years ago. Researchers predict that the number of cancers is sure to rise further in years to come. ….Dr Elaine Ron, from the US National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, said: “The elevated risk of thyroid cancer appears to continue throughout life, but there is some indication that the risk may be highest 15 to 19 years after exposure.” BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1615299.stm
This is getting more confusing as I go. Try again.
“In 2006, German Green Member of the European Parliament Rebecca Harms, commissioned two British scientists to write an alternate report (TORCH, The Other Report on Chernobyl) in response to the 2006 Chernobyl Forum report, which was prepared by over a hundred of experts of a number of UN agencies including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other UN bodies, as well as the Governments of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.” Wikipedia.
Let’s see what this says: http://www.chernobylreport.org/
THE OTHER REPORT ON CHERNOBYL (TORCH)
AN INDEPENDENT SCIENTIFIC EVALUATION OF HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS 20 YEARS
AFTER THE NUCLEAR DISASTER PROVIDING CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF A RECENT REPORT BY THE
INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY (IAEA) AND THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO)
AUTHORS_ Ian Fairlie, PhD, UK. David Sumner, DPhil, UK
AFTERWORD_ Prof. Angelina Nyagu, Ukraine
Let me say here that at the back of mind there is memory of the official Atomic Weapons Test Safety Committee reports to the Australian people. All is well they said. The bombs are safe they said. It turns out they were keeping the bombs safe from public opinion. So I am disposed to an intelligent independent report. I have not read it yet. It’s 2am.
I have a nagging problem. What is your point Pam? If 2,000 people (the BBC figure) suffer thyroid cancer and the effects of thyroid removal as a treatment, with more to come (WHO), is that a proof that evacuation is useless? HOW MANY MORE CASES WOULD THERE HAVE BEEN BUT FOR THE EVACUATION???
The numbers I quote are probably too low, and the cancer type quite specific.
The numbers, though appearing concrete, are not the real issue. It is the lives of the individuals which count.
Dealing with the issue from a social perspective is fruitful. Let’s have a look at that. At least there is a narrative and the possibility of shared learning from the perspective of ordinary people.
REPORT AIR DATE: March 29, 2011
Revisiting Chernobyl: A Nuclear Disaster Site of Epic Proportions
GWEN IFILL: The nuclear crisis in Japan immediately brought back memories of the meltdown at Chernobyl, which still ranks as the world’s worst nuclear accident.
Nearly 25 years later, NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien returned last week to see what life is like there now.
MILES O’BRIEN: For an infamous ghost town of epic proportions, Chernobyl sure is a busy place. Past the guards, through the gates, and into this time capsule of the life Soviet, you must first find your way to the exclusion zone office, where the phone does not stop ringing these days.
Marina Polyakova tells me it’s mostly reporters calling, wanting to visit since the meltdown at Fukushima.
What am I paying for here? What am I getting for 1,064?
WOMAN: That’s for the entrance.
MILES O’BRIEN: Paying the entrance fee, I remember many Ukrainians who would like to open the place to tourists, a macabre theme park, to be sure.
Do you think tourists would come here?
People can come to the area to see everything themselves and then make their own opinion, she told me, not on the basis of what journalists say about this place.
No offense taken, I guess. But what a difference 25 years can make.
ROBERT MACNEIL, former PBS anchor: Good evening.
In the news today, there was an accident at a Soviet nuclear plant, causing some casualties.
MILES O’BRIEN: Two days before the Soviet government announced the problem, reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, 80 miles north of Kiev, blew up, spewing out more radioactivity than 100 Hiroshima bombs. With a cloud of fallout rapidly spreading north and west over Europe, there could be no state secrets. The Kremlin could not keep a lid on Chernobyl in every respect.
MAN: The results were alarming. Significantly higher than normal levels were recorded.
MILES O’BRIEN: About 30 workers and firefighters died in the first week, untold numbers in the 25 years since.
GENNADI MILINEVSKY, University of Kiev: Very important to have these devices.
MILES O’BRIEN: My guide inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone was physicist Gennadi Milinevsky of the University of Kiev.
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: It should be 12 microrems per hour.
MILES O’BRIEN: So, this is a little bit…
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: It’s a little — it’s twice more.
MILES O’BRIEN: This is two, almost three times more background radiation just right here.
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: Two more times right here more than the ground. But…
MILES O’BRIEN: So, should we be worried about that?
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: No, not really.
MILES O’BRIEN: Not that big a deal?
It’s not enough to cause harm within a short period of time.
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: For those who saved the world.
MILES O’BRIEN: We stopped by a monument to the firefighters who fought valiantly for 10 days to douse the nuclear inferno.
Are they heroes?
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: Yes, heroes. It’s — many of them received a dose not connected with — with life.
MILES O’BRIEN: Yes.
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: They died in one month.
MILES O’BRIEN: Really?
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: Yes. They were sent to Moscow to special clinic for treatment. But they were — died.
MILES O’BRIEN: Helicopters finally smothered the fire with sand, clay, boron, lead, and liquid nitrogen. Eventually, 600,000 Soviet army conscripts were dispatched to Chernobyl to shovel the lethal mess back into the remnants of the reactor, so that it could be encased in steel and concrete.
VASYL KAVATSIUK, Chernobyl liquidator: Our job was to put the radioactive material back…
MILES O’BRIEN: I see.
VASYL KAVATSIUK: … to the reactor, yes.
MILES O’BRIEN: I see. So, then — so they could cover it over?
VASYL KAVATSIUK: That’s exactly right.
MILES O’BRIEN: So you — you were in very close proximity to this stuff?
VASYL KAVATSIUK: Cannot be closer.
MILES O’BRIEN: They called them liquidators. And Vasyl Kavatsiuk was one of them. A demolition expert, he spent 37 days working at the wrecked reactor.
VASYL KAVATSIUK: If you think about that, you are getting more sick more than you’re supposed to be. You are just thinking I have to do this. This is my job. I have to finish this. I have to do this. Anybody — anyhow, somebody must do that.
MILES O’BRIEN: Until he collapsed and had to be medevaced to Moscow. His wife, Maria, gave birth to a girl, Marta, in 1987. Just shy of her second birthday, she died suddenly of leukemia. In 1989, they had another daughter, Maria. She too contracted leukemia, but survived.
Is there a lot of cancer in your family?
VASYL KAVATSIUK: Never had one.
MILES O’BRIEN: Never?
VASYL KAVATSIUK: Never.
MILES O’BRIEN: Is there any doubt in your mind that the leukemia your two daughters had, had something to do with Chernobyl?
VASYL KAVATSIUK: I have no doubt about that.
MILES O’BRIEN: There’s no doubt radiation causes cancer and genetic defects. The fast-moving subatomic particles plow into molecules with enough energy to knock lose electrons. The dinged molecules, called ions, can kill or damage cells. Enough of this will kill you quickly. Less damage can cause cancer or, if DNA is the target, create genetic mutations.
This is the town of Pripyat.
MILES O’BRIEN: Pripyat was just one of 150 towns and settlements evacuated after the accident. More than 300,000 people were displaced, while a few hundred stubborn holdouts remain on their land, people like Maria, who, at 75, says she is more worried about her cottage falling down than radiation.
Children are the most vulnerable to the effects of radiation. After the explosion, there was a big spike in birth defects and thyroid cancer, extremely rare among children. And researchers say there is also a significant drop in the intellect in the region.
At the dilapidated regional hospital closest to Chernobyl, the medical staff is convinced there is a direct link between chronic exposure to radiation and a whole assortment of diseases and deformities.
I asked Dr. Constantine Cheres if he is convinced people are more sick here because of the Chernobyl accident. “Of course,” he told me. “Of course they are more sick.”
But the Chernobyl Forum, a group of U.N. agencies focused on the accident, estimates only 4,000 people died as a result of the explosion and its aftermath. One of the four members, the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, issued a report contending: “There is no clearly demonstrated increase in the incidence of cancers or leukemia due to radiation in the exposed populations. Neither is there any proof of any non-malignant disorders that are related to ionizing radiation. However, there were widespread psychological reactions to the accident, which were due to fear of the radiation, not the actual radiation doses.”
But Ukrainian scientist Maryna Naboka begs to differ. She told me people here get sick more often and they become more seriously sick. They receive little doses of radiation, but they do it on a day-to-day basis, and the second generation continues getting the radiation.
Radiation contamination is very stubborn. Gennadi Milinevsky took me to a place inside the exclusion zone, 30 kilometers, or 18 miles, around the plant, that is still heavily irradiated.
They call it the red forest because why?
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: They call it red forest because this is strong radiation. The leaves of trees became red.
MILES O’BRIEN: Right.
It killed the trees.
The radiation killed pine trees in a 30-square kilometer, 11-square-mile swathe. As we hiked in, the Geiger counter got very excited.
All right, so now we’re more than — we’re at 400 times. Are we OK?
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: Yes.
MILES O’BRIEN: Are we safe?
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: Safe.
MILES O’BRIEN: All right. All right. Just checking. We just don’t want to stay here too long, do we?
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: Yes. If you put it on the ground…
MILES O’BRIEN: Yes.
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: … it became much…
MILES O’BRIEN: Oh, look at that, look at that, 5.5 half right there. That’s 500 times right there. This used to be pine trees as far as you can see.
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: Yes.
MILES O’BRIEN: And the cesium came through here after the explosion. And that’s — and to this day is…
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: Yes, still over there.
MILES O’BRIEN: Are there animals that can live here, or not?
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: No, no.
MILES O’BRIEN: Milinevsky’s colleague, Tim Mousseau, believes animals are the key to settling the debate over the long-term health effects of Chernobyl. He and his team have spent more than a decade studying birds in the Chernobyl region and beyond.
TIMOTHY MOUSSEAU, University of South Carolina: But it’s clear that this low-level contamination is — is probably more dangerous in the long run than — than having a single hot spot.
MILES O’BRIEN: In contaminated areas, there are half as many species and one-third number of birds you would expect. Their brains are smaller. Forty percent of male barn swallows have abnormal sperm. One in five have strange colored plumage that makes it hard to attract mates.
There are unusual beak deformities and large tumors that scientists have never seen before. What, if anything, can we extrapolate between that bird population, that population of barn swallows, and humans?
TIMOTHY MOUSSEAU: I would argue that, you know, we’re all — we’re all animals, and birds are actually more similar to us than dissimilar to us.
MILES O’BRIEN: Mousseau’s colleagues are also looking at Chernobyl’s grasshoppers. They frequently have asymmetrical wings, and fruit flies, which are easily impacted by radiation. Those found around Chernobyl have gray eyes, instead of red, and deformed wings.
Biologist Irina Koretsky studies the little bugs, in part because they only live about a month, meaning she can track genetic changes through many generations in short order. She worries about the sporadic funding for research that could lead to some definitive answers about the Chernobyl riddle.
She told me: “This is the worst thing that can happen. If there are gaps in the research for two or three years, we cannot have this full picture.”
At the remains of reactor number four, I saw the concrete and steel sarcophagus that was completed six months after the explosion.
Is it holding? Is it doing its job?
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: It’s not — not carefully doing this job, because there’s many holes inside and, still, in windy weather, we have some dust coming outside.
MILES O’BRIEN: Ukraine is asking the west for $800 million to pay for a new shelter over the old sarcophagus that would last 100 years. Beneath it is all is a molten witch’s brew of radioactive isotopes, including plutonium, with a half-life of 24,000 years, meaning, in 24,000 years, half of it will still be here, and 24,000 years later, half of that will still be here, and so on.
Do you think human beings are capable of keeping this thing safe for tens of thousands of years?
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: If he covers it, will try to keep it safe.
MILES O’BRIEN: Yes.
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: But this place, this area will be still not good for life.
MILES O’BRIEN: Forever.
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: Yes, forever, yes.
MILES O’BRIEN: And — and…
GENNADI MILINEVSKY: That is problem for all nuclear power plants. When we build new nuclear power, power plants, always, you create some headache for future generations.
MILES O’BRIEN: And something for our generation to consider as we weigh the pros and cons of nuclear power.
Only the people affected can truly speak of what has happened to them, and when they speak, they speak of their private lives. Speaking to outsiders is part of the cost of reporting. It is voluntary.
On the other hand, nuclear authorities are becoming increasingly authoritarian. In my opinion, as I sit, watching the world as best I can.
My view is this: Nuclear technology is old technology, it is emitting technology of a type nuclear authorities like to keep obscure. Each time there is a nuclear disaster, authorities talk of radiation and radioactive clouds. They introduce a source – a CT Scanner or an X ray machine – which cannot possibly be the source of the exposure. They are used as an analogy for the real source.
Radionuclides. Radioactive dust. radioisotopes. The things which are made in a nuclear reactor during the fission of uranium and plutonium. A spent fuel rod is not a flat battery. A uranium rod goes in and a spent rod comes out. The rod is no longer uranium alone. It is uranium and about 250 fission products, each far more radioactive per gram than the uranium. That is why Szilard named his chain reaction as he did.
An improved method for the transmutation of the chemical elements. 1934. A radio-poison machine.
It develops heat in the process.
The people of the world seem to be learning the realities of this old technology one country at a time.
Why do nuclear authorities use analogy when we are perfectly capable of understanding what a radionuclide is? The idea that reactors are non emitting is false. Even at the best of times.
A bomb is a bit different, but it makes the same stuff. Take a look at Taranaki. What was it that had to be removed to make it safer? Dozens of CT scanners or tons of radioactive dirt? Why was the dirt radioactive? Because mixed in with it were particles of plutonium. Are radioactive substance. It cannot be switched off like an X ray machine. And if internalised is a threat to health and life.
It is the presence of such emissions after a reactor accident which requires 1. evacuation 2. cleanup. If you can.
There are some who that the seas will rise and farmland become desert unless we build more nukes.
Is that true?
Are reactors the answer to climate change?
There is one final thing I must dispute within the July 2011 Flinders University proclamation which quotes Pam Sykes.
It is this: “the public panic in response to nuclear accidents such as that at Fukushima in Japan is the result of a general ignorance about radiation.” Sykes labels people and she does it to entire sections of populations. Those sections of the populations who disagree with her.
Just like Titterton et al did.
No thanks Pam. I don’t buy it.
PEOPLE WERE NOT FREE TO BE HEARD WITHOUT THE THREAT OF NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCE.
and many people were paid by State authority to act against their compatriots. In that era and at that place it was called the KGB.
Photographs of the same and similar chromosomal defects to those shown at the above link were published in England by Peter Alexander, cancer researcher, in London in 1957 and earlier.
The Government is considering whether to fund studies into the health of nuclear test veterans’ children, after a Massey study confirmed that the veterans had suffered genetic damage as a result of radiation.
The New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association commissioned Dr Al Rowland of the Institute of Molecular BioSciences and his team to look at the cells of 50 veterans for damage. Dr Rowland says the findings are unequivocal: in a matched control group of men of the same age, his team found an expected frequency of 10 chromosome translocations per 1000 cells, but in the veterans’ group, the average number of translocations was considerably higher at 29 chromosome translocations per 1000 cells.
Workers who were close the Chernobyl nuclear accident or involved in the clean up after the accident had about 20 translocations.
The lawyer acting for the veterans is to travel to London, where a class action is being taken against the British Government on behalf of the British, Fijian and New Zealand Veterans.
Association chairman Roy Sefton says more than 400 of the 551 sailors who took part in Operation Grapple have died. He was 17 when he was sent to the operation, a series of detonations totalling nine-megatons.
“NZNTVA is now looking for financial support from Government, or elsewhere, to have a study done on a group of the veterans’ children to identify any genetic damage that may have resulted from their fathers’ exposure to service-related radiation.”
It was the incoming Labour Government of 1999 that granted the veterans $100,000 for the study, Mr Sefton says, with additional support of more than $100,000 from agencies including The Lion Foundation, the New Zealand and Auckland cancer societies, and the Royal Society which donated funding and laboratory equipment.
The seamen who took part in Operation Grapple were on the frigates HMNZS Pukaki and HMNZS Rotoiti, watching the tests from distances of between 52km and 278km.
The University team that produced the study included Mohammed Abdul Wahab and Elizabeth Nickless of the Institute of Molecular BioSciences, and Associate Professor John Podd of the University’s School of Psychology, as well as Claude Parmentier and Radhia M’Kacher of the Institut Gustave-Roussy in France.
The five-year project started with development of an extremely stringent procedure, with input from St Andrew’s University in Scotland, which devised the set of assays (tests). Analysis was made of 50 veterans and a control group for possible confounding factors, together with analysis of the literature in related studies.
The final report, released on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the first nuclear test on Malden Island on 15 May, 1957, states that the cause of the elevated translocation frequencies observed in veterans is most likely attributable to radiation exposure. Dr Rowland says that while he realises the subject is political, his interest is in the science.
British MPs acknowledge nuclear test veterans report
The report into the health of New Zealand nuclear test veterans, undertaken by a team led by Dr Al Rowland of the Institute of Molecular Biosciences, has been acknowledged in the United Kingdom House of Commons.
The Labour Mp for Norwich North, Ian Gibson, lodged an early day motion – a device to stimulate debate and recognition in the house – applauding the study. Dr Gibson and John Baron, Conservative MP for Billericay, also planned to request a parliamentary inquiry into the detonations, which took place in the South Pacific from 1957.
The New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association commissioned Dr Rowland to look at the cells of 50 veterans for damage. Dr Rowland says the findings are unequivocal: in a matched control group of men of the same age, his team found an expected frequency of 10 chromosome translocations per 1000 cells, but in the veterans’ group, the average number of translocations was considerably higher at 29 chromosome translocations per 1000 cells. Workers who were close to the Chernobyl nuclear accident or involved in the clean up after the accident had about 20 translocations.
Dr Gibson has asked for a copy of the report.
“We really need a similar thing for this country.”
There were 40,000 servicemen and civilians at the UK tests, 22,000 of them from Britain and the rest from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.
Dr Gibson’s early day motion (EDM), lodged on 15 May, has attracted support from 87 other MPs. Although most EDMs are never debated, they are used to publicise the views of individual MPs, draw attention to specific events or campaigns, and to demonstrating the extent of parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view.
More than 400 of the 551 sailors who took part in Operation Grapple have died. The New Zealand Test Veterans Association is now urging the New Zealand Government to fund studies into the health of veterans’ children and grandchildren.
See also: “Atomic Radiation and Life”, Peter Alexander, Pelican Books, London, 1957, Chapter “The Sins of the Fathers.”
A significant level of genetic damage in the DNA of New Zealand nuclear test veterans has been found in a study by Massey molecular scientists led by Dr Al Rowland.
The Nuclear Test Veterans Association has released the results of the study, which confirm those found in preliminary results of a previous study released last year by the Department for Veteran Affairs. Dr Rowland led both studies, and says the results of the Government-funded study (still underway) are likely to be released in November.
The larger Government-funded research involves the comparison of genetic findings from a group of Navy veterans with those from a control group of other veterans who have not been exposed to elevated levels of radiation. At the completion of the study, the scientists will have carried out five analyses, to determine factors such as the amount of translocation in chromosomes, the efficiency of DNA repairs, and the level of DNA degradation.
Dr Rowland says preliminary results show a small but significant level of genetic damage to the chromosomes of veterans who were exposed to nuclear explosions almost half a century ago. During 1957 and 1958 at Operation Grapple, 551 New Zealand naval men witnessed nine nuclear detonations at Christmas Island and in the Malden Islands in Kiribati.
Dr Rowland says the factors of smoking, alcohol consumption and the use of medical x-rays were taken into account when comparing the DNA of the two groups. He says the suggestion by university peer reviewers that the heavy smoking of the test veterans was a factor in the results is incorrect. Although the Navy veterans had smoked at a greater frequency than the other group in the past, both groups had similar levels of cigarette consumption at the time of the test. He says this is an important consideration as the test looks at what is in the blood at the time of the test, which puts both groups on a level testing ground.
Clustering in time and space of cases of Down’s syndrome has attracted
attention. Collmann and Stoller suggested an infective cause.’
We report an unusual cluster of babies with Down’s syndrome born
to six young mothers whose only common feature was that they
attended school together in Dundalk, an eastern coastal town in the
Republic of Ireland, during the 1950s. An outbreak of illness similar
to influenza occurred in the school in October 1957.
Patients, methods, and results
A child with Down’s syndrome was examined by one of us in 1974, and
the mother mentioned that babies with Down’s syndrome had also been
born to some of her school friends. All 213 pupils who had attended the
school in the 1950s were contacted, and details of their obstetric and other
personal histories were sought. This revealed that six babies with Down’s
syndrome had been born to six former pupils (table). Because of the influenza
epidemic in 1957 sera from the six mothers of babies with Down’s
syndrome and from 128 controls, who included 55 other former pupils of
the “affected” school, were tested for influenza and other possible teratogenic
The sera from all 134 mothers were examined for antibody titres to
several influenza strains and also to rubella, cytomegalovirus, hepatitis B,
and to the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii. None of the results was significant.
Karyotyping of the six babies with Down’s syndrome showed that all were
simple trisomy 21. In each case both the parents had normal chromosomes.
All have since had only normal children in a total of 26 pregnancies (table).
Fetal wastage was compared in all groups but results showed no statistical
In the control group one baby with Down’s syndrome was born as a
result of a fifth pregnancy to a 40 year old mother from another school.
Two controls had also spent their teens in Dundalk though not at the same
school. None of the 134 used contraceptives, fertility pills, or drugs. None
of the six mothers of babies with Down’s syndrome smoked. Only one had
been exposed to x rays during pregnancy and she had had a single dental
x ray examination.
The number of affected children was far too high to be the result
of chance alone. The incidence of six babies with Down’s syndrome
in a total of 26 pregnancies (table) is significantly higher than the
accepted overall incidence of one in 600.
Trisomic clustering in space and time has been reported many
times.2 This unique cluster is related to neither space nor time; the
babies were born in different locations. The only common factor is
that their mothers lived in close association during their teenage
years and had an illness similar to influenza in October 1957.
Another possible time related causative factor was the nuclear
accident at Windscale 10 October 1957. Irish meteorological reports
are consistent with radioactive fallout having reached Ireland at a
time of heavy rainfall in the Dundalk area. Radioactive iodine (“3’1)
and Polonium 210 are transmitted via cows’ milk and the food chain.3
Milk supplies were not monitored for radioactivity in Ireland at that
time so no figures are available. We suggest that the levels of exposure
to radiation in Dundalk were probably similar to those of the average
population in southern England. Estimates of dosage are well below
those that would be expected to give rise to demonstrable consequences
unless perhaps some other unknown interacting factor, such
as a virus infection, had been present.
An increased incidence of Down’s syndrome along the east coast
of Ireland with a peak in 1974 has been reported.4 There has also been
an increase in the number of deaths from leukaemia and cancer
along the east coast.
What happened to these young women when they were teenagers
in school together? We are left with the nagging doubt that possible
exposure to radiation associated with some infection had an adverse
influence on the subsequent non-disjunction of chromosome 21 in
their six babies.
We thank the staff of the Meteorological Office and Dr Eric Feeney,
principal physicist, St Luke’s Hospital, Dublin, for their help, and Mrs S
Duffy for typing the manuscript.
Collmann RD, Stoller A. Notes on the epidemiology of mongolism in
Victoria, Australia from 1942 to 1957. Proceedings of the Conference
on Science and Mental Deficiency 1962;1 :517.
2 Paneth N, Lansky M, Hiatt IM, Hegyi T. Congenital malformation
clusters in eastern United States. Lancet 1980;ii :808.
3 Urguhart J. Polonium: Windscale’s most lethal legacy. New Scientist
1983; March 31:873.
4 Coffey VP, Hillery MB. A review of Down syndrome in the Eastern
Health Board region of Ireland-1979 and 1980. Ir Med 7 1982;75:
(Accepted 20 July 1983)
BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL VOLUME 287 12 NOVEMBER 1983
Of course, the British Government and Nuclear Authorities may very well disagree.
However both of these are considered Perpetual Legal Entities incapable of Becoming Pregnant.
Other scientific reports either agree or disagree with various positions and conclusions
reported in England as a consequence of the Windscale graphite core reactor disaster of 1957.
A lay Australian once proposed the whole thing was Karma, seeing as how the joint made the
plutonium which was made from Australian uranium which was then used in nuclear weapons which were detonated in and over Australia. I don’t know about that and refer to higher authorities.