Archive for the ‘health’ Category

The radioactive puppies of Chernobyl

October 30, 2017

The Puppies of Chernobyl


HUNDREDS OF RADIOACTIVE PUPPIES JUST GOT SPAYED, NEUTERED AT CHERNOBYL DISASTER SITE, BY KATE SHERIDAN An American nonprofit organization, Clean Futures Fund, has started a spay and neuter clinic for the four-legged descendants of survivors of one of history’s worst nuclear disasters.

After the Chernobyl nuclear reactor melted down on April 26, 1986, some dogs and cats left behind survived and began to breed. More than 400 animals were spayed and neutered in the first year of the clinic’s operation at the former reactor, which ended earlier this month.

The laws governing the exclusion zone around Chernobyl strongly advise people to avoid feeding or touching the dogs, due to the risk of contamination. Not only is the dogs’ fur potentially loaded with radioactive particles, but their food and water is contaminated. The radioactive molecules they ingest may also linger in their bodies.

“We could find areas in their bones where radioisotopes had accumulated. We could survey the bones and we could see the radioactivity in them,” a Clean Futures Fund co-founder, Lucas Hixson, told Newsweek. The program funds medical treatment for locals in addition to running the spay and neuter program at the power plant and in the neighboring city.

“These dogs run through [contaminated areas] and it gets stuck on their coat and on the end of their noses and their feet.”

There are nearly 1,000 dogs in the area around the power plant. Only a few dozen cats live in the highly contaminated areas that the dogs frequent.

Hixson has been traveling to Chernobyl for about five years, initially as a radiation specialist. “I go over there expecting to do my work, and I step off the train at the power plant and there’s a dog in my face. Honestly, it was one of the last things I expected to see at Chernobyl,” he said.

To keep the veterinary hospital as free from radioactive contamination as possible, dogs that come to the facility are examined and washed down until their levels of radioactivity are deemed safe.

Despite the potential risk, Hixson said he’s continued to interact with the dogs. “There is a fair amount of handling that happens. This is a natural reaction between humans and dogs,” he said. “You can’t help yourself.”

“They’re not hazardous to your immediate health and wellbeing. But anytime you go pet the dogs, go wash your hands afterwards before you eat.”

Clean Futures Fund got approval from the Ukranian government for its operations. Other partners include SPCA International, Dogs Trust and two U.S. universities, including Worchester Polytechnic Institute and the University of South Carolina.

Hixson also noted the local workers have welcomed the team. “I remember there was a lot of skepticism when we showed up,” he said. “But after about two or three days of us catching dogs, processing them, releasing them, the attitude immediately changed,” he said. “I can’t thank them enough for everything they did.”

Even if every dog and cat in Chernobyl is sterilized and vaccinated, the wider stray dog issue in Ukraine means that more dogs could move into the contaminated area and Clean Futures Fund’s efforts could be somewhat for naught. Ultimately, Hixson would like to work with the Ukranian government on a wider rescue program to get the dogs out of the area and into homes.

He will be returning in November to measure the impact of the program, which is expected to run for five years. The next spay and neuter clinic will happen next summer.


Climate change and infectious diseases

October 30, 2017

the pathogen with the highest sensitivity to climate factors was Vibrio cholera, the microbe that causes the serious, and often deadly, diarrheal disease, cholera. Cholera had nine climate drivers, indicating high volatility in the face of climate change.

These Infections Are Likely to Get Worse as the Climate Changes, Invisiverse, BY CYNTHIA WALLENTINE, 08/23/2017

When the climate changes, so do all the things that rely on the climate, including people, plants, and pathogens. A European study recently took a broad look at what kind of microorganisms are most likely to be affected as climate change heats, cools, dries, and wets the world around us.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, a research team from the University of Liverpool performed a broad assessment of how factors of climate change impact pathogens that make humans and animals sick. By understanding which microorganisms are more sensitive to environmental change, we have a better idea of how infection rates might change as the environment grows progressively less stable.

What Are Climate Drivers?

In the study, the authors note there is evidence that climate shifts are already causing changes in the incidence of disease — allowing some to appear at higher or lower altitudes and latitudes. The authors note modeling is frequently used to predict which pathogens could advance, but this study uses climate variables, along with data on selected pathogens, to get an idea of which pathogens we should worry about the most.

Climate variables that affect these pathogens are an important part of this study. The research team refers to these variables as “climate drivers” that include:

Primary drivers: Extreme weather events, climate change, climate oscillations, moisture, rainfall, temperature, and wind fluctuations.

Secondary drivers: Altitude, salinity, particulate matter, and vegetation.

The team chose to analyze 101 pathogens considered “high impact” to humans and animals in Europe and categorized them by how sensitive they are to these factors. These pathogens included bacteria, fungi, helminths, protozoa, and viruses. Overall, there are 157 pathogens categorized because some pathogens are affected by both primary and secondary variables.

Which Pathogens Are Set to Be Destabilized by Climate Change?

Humans, animals, plants, and microorganisms rely on climate variables that are always in some local flux. When climate drivers swing far enough beyond the expected spectrum, larger change is bound to happen.

When comparing pathogens to climate drivers, the study team found that 99, or 63% of the pathogens were likely to respond to at least one climate driver. Fifty-eight, or 37%, of the pathogens, like HIV, did not show sensitivity to climate variables. That narrows the field of pathogens likely to go askew because of environmental change.

More than 90% of that initial group of 99 pathogens were sensitive to between one and five climate drivers. Other statistical findings on the numbers of pathogens likely to be affected by climate change include:

  • 81 of 99 pathogens were affected by primary climate drivers
  • 56 of the 99 pathogens also had secondary climate drivers
  • 18 of the 99 agents had sensitivity to secondary, but not primary climate drivers

Overall, pathogens were found to be most sensitive to climate drivers (primary and secondary) that include rainfall, temperature, moisture, and particulate matter.

  • The pathogen with the highest sensitivity to climate factors was Vibrio cholera, the microbe that causes the serious, and often deadly, diarrheal disease, cholera. Cholera had nine climate drivers, indicating high volatility in the face of climate change.
  • First runner up was the helminth, a parasite known as the “liver fluke” found throughout the world where sheep and cattle are present. A “helminth,” is the term for any parasitic nematode, worm, or fluke.
  • Next up is anthrax, Bacillus anthracis, a naturally occurring bacteria that can prove fatal depending on infection type, and available treatment.
  • Rounding out the top four is Borrelia burgdorferi, the tick-borne bacteria that causes Lyme disease. (We’re already seeing increased incidence of Lyme-bearing ticks in the Northeast US.)


Medical isotope production from linear accelerators – better, and safer, than from nuclear reactors

August 21, 2017

How Better Cancer Treatment Can Also Mean Better Nuclear Security 14, 2017 C. Norman Coleman, Silvia Formenti, Miles A. Pomperrecent report in The Washington Post that the self-proclaimed Islamic State almost stumbled upon radioactive material in Mosul—in the form of cobalt-60, a substance used in radiation therapy—raises a profound dilemma about cancer treatment in developing countries and the risk of terrorists obtaining a key ingredient for making “dirty bombs.”

Cobalt-60 radiation machines are one of the many tools doctors have used in the treatment of cancer for the past 50 years. In North America, nearly all of these units have been replaced with more advanced technology called linear accelerators, which do not contain radioactive material and provide medically superior treatment. In developing countries, the cobalt-60 radiation machines remain prevalent. They are cost-effective and appealing in states with limited or intermittent electricity supplies and other physical infrastructure as well as a shortage of medical and technical expertise.

Iraq still has two cobalt-60 machines, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, having already transitioned to linear accelerators for its 10 other treatment machines. But as Mosul made clear, using even one or two of these radiation machines comes with security risks. If the wrong people, such as members of the Islamic State or another terrorist group, got hold of cobalt-60, they could potentially create a dirty bomb or a radiation exposure device. With more than 70 percent of all cancer deaths now occurring in developing countries, the problem of balancing cancer treatment with security risks will only get worse.

The surest way to prevent terrorists from acquiring these materials, while not limiting people’s access to necessary cancer treatment, is to phase out cobalt-60 radiation machines and replace them with linear accelerators. The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, which is in charge of efforts to secure potentially dangerous radioactive material, has been supporting this approach for several years. To do so, developing countries need better technology and treatment environments, not only to support this transition away from cobalt-60 machines but to improve cancer treatment overall. Continue reading this article in World Politics Review

The cancer effect from past nuclear explosions still continues

August 21, 2017

Nuclear explosions from the past are still causing cancer and health problems today, KEVIN LORIA AUG 18, 2017 

Potassium iodide – a limited remedy for exposure to ionising radiation

August 21, 2017

Verify: Will potassium iodide protect you from nuclear fallout? Barbara Harvey, KXTV 6:48 AM. PDT August 16, 2017 In 1999, the World Health Organization released guidelines on the use of potassium iodide, citing the exposure of children to radiation after the Chernobyl disaster.

New evidence on the harm from inhaled radioactive dust – study of Hiroshima’s teenagers of 1945

August 21, 2017

Extent of A-bomb dust inhalation in 1945 underestimated: researchers 31, 2017 (Mainichi Japan)HIROSHIMA — The prevalence of acute symptoms among teenage soldiers exposed to dust particles as they helped out with relief operations in the aftermath of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima has been found to be at least 10 times higher than those who were unexposed, it has been learned.

Sickness and deaths: the toxic result of the St Louis radioactive aste dump

July 24, 2017

The reports don’t acknowledge these stories, these illnesses, those who are dying or dead. Most residents of St. Louis—including and especially the residents of predominantly African-American neighborhoods—don’t even know the contamination is there. …….

the half-life of Thorium 232: fourteen billion years, a half-life so long that by the time this element is safe for human exposure

a contradiction I can’t resolve: that the massive crime here began with a belief in a kind of care, a belief that protection comes only in the form of wars and bombs, and that its ultimate expression is a technology that can destroy in a single instant any threat to our safety with perfect precision and efficiency. But hundreds of thousands lost their lives to those bombs in Japan, and the fallout from building them has claimed at least as many lives right here at home.

The Fallout, In St. Louis, America’s nuclear history creeps into the present, leaching into streams and bodies. Guernica, By Lacy M. Johnson, 10 July 2017 “………Months ago, when a high-school friend reached out to me asking that I give my attention to this story, she told me that a company tasked decades ago with disposing of nuclear waste for the federal government had instead dumped thousands of barrels of the waste somewhere in North St. Louis County. The barrels were left exposed to the elements for decades, and the waste had leaked into the ground and into the water of a nearby creek……

When the federal government filed suit to acquire the property under eminent domain, officials refused to disclose the exact nature of the waste “for security reasons.” They assured the local government that the waste they’d be storing there wasn’t dangerous. They shook hands and signed papers. They looked people squarely in the eye.

During the next twenty years, truckload by truckload, the green patchwork of farm fields by the airfield turned into a foreign world. Mountains of raffinate rose up across from row after row of rusty black drums, stacked two or three high.

……..The reports tell only so much, only certain parts of certain versions of the story. The rest I have to piece together using articles in the local newspaper, phone calls with these residents, oral histories collected by others, newsletters from various companies celebrating one anniversary or another…..

In my pile of reports there is a series of letters from Cotter to the Atomic Energy Commission, in which Cotter tries to convince the government to take these wastes back. Commercial disposal would cost upwards of two million dollars (about twelve million dollars today). They couldn’t afford it. They knew that the AEC was using a quarry at the recently decommissioned second Mallinckrodt facility at Weldon Spring, roughly twenty miles southwest of the airport, as a dump for nuclear waste. They asked the AEC if they could use it, asked for guidance, and for help.

That help never came……

A lengthy investigation discovered that from August to October 1973, a private construction firm drove truckloads of the leached barium sulfate—along with roughly forty thousand tons of soil removed from the top eighteen inches of the Latty Avenue site—to West Lake Landfill, all around the clock, sometimes in the middle of the night. To the landfill operator it looked like dirt, so he waved the trucks in and charged them nothing, using it as landfill cover over the municipal refuse…..

the reports express the detection of this contamination in charts, as numbers and statistics. They’ve found contamination at the airport, in the drainage ditches leading away from the airport, and all along the creek—along the trucking routes, in ballfields and in parks and gardens and backyards, in driveways, in people’s basements and under their kitchen cabinets. Even now, as I write this, they are still trying to figure out just how far it has spread.

The reports measure the health risk of exposure to this contamination as an equation, with a threshold of acceptable risk. But what the reports don’t say is that the contamination has already done so much damage that cannot be measured or undone. The Mallinckrodt uranium workers are some of the most contaminated in the history of the atomic age. So contaminated, in fact, that in 2009 all former Mallinckrodt uranium workers were added as a “special exposure cohort” to the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. The act provides compensation and lifetime medical benefits to employees who became ill with any of twenty-two named cancers as a result of working in the nuclear-weapons industry. Because of this special cohort status, if a former Mallinckrodt worker develops any of these named illnesses, exposure to the uranium is assumed. But the people who live near the creek didn’t work for Mallinckrodt. They aren’t entitled to compensation or to medical benefits.

A woman named Mary Oscko, for instance, has lived her whole life in North St. Louis County, most of it near that small creek. Now she is dying of stage-four lung cancer, though she has never smoked a day in her life. Shari Riley, a nurse who lived near the creek, died recently of appendix cancer—rare in the general population, but several dozen cases have been reported among those who live or lived near the airport or along the creek. My friend—the one who contacted me about this story—never lived in St. Louis, but her mother grew up two houses away from that creek. My friend suspects that her mother’s exposure to the contamination as a child changed her DNA in ways she passed on to her children, which would explain why my friend was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer a few years ago, at the age of thirty-five. Could it also explain why my friend’s mother once gave birth to a set of conjoined twins? Conjoined twins are an anomaly in the general population, but these make the fourth set born to women who grew up near that creek. And those are just the ones we know about.

The reports don’t acknowledge these stories, these illnesses, those who are dying or dead. Most residents of St. Louis—including and especially the residents of predominantly African-American neighborhoods—don’t even know the contamination is there. …….

“My librarian,” Kay Drey tells me—has filed the EPA’s Record of Decision for the West Lake Landfill, and then on the drawer where I might find studies that contradict the EPA’s assessment that the radioactive waste in the landfill doesn’t pose a threat to residents—the radiological surveys of the site conducted in the 1970s and 1980s by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy, as well as more current studies by independent researchers. She explains that the radioactive waste buried in West Lake Landfill covers about twenty acres in two locations in one or many layers, estimated at two to fifteen feet thick, some of it mixed in with municipal refuse and some of it sitting right at the surface. It is in the trees surrounding the landfill and the vacuum bags in nearby homes. This waste contains not only uranium, but also thorium and radium, all long-lived, highly radio-toxic elements. And because Mallinckrodt removed most of the naturally occurring uranium from this ore, the Cotter Corporation, in effect, created an enriched thorium deposit when they dumped the residues at West Lake Landfill. “In fact,” Kay muses, “West Lake Landfill might now be the richest deposit of thorium in the world.”

Thorium and uranium in particular are among the radioactive primordial nuclides, radioactive elements that have existed in their current form since before Earth was formed, since before the formation of the solar system even, and will remain radioactive and toxic to life long after humans are gone. We’re sitting back in Kay’s dining room when she pulls out a tiny booklet labeled “Nuclear Wallet Cards.” What its intended purpose is, I don’t know, but Kay flips to the back to show me the half-life of Thorium 232: fourteen billion years, a half-life so long that by the time this element is safe for human exposure, the Appalachian Mountains will have eroded away, every ocean on Earth’s surface will have evaporated, Antarctica will be free of ice, and all the rings of Saturn will have decayed. Earth’s rotation will have slowed so much that days will have become twenty-five hours long, photosynthesis will have ceased, and multicellular life will have become a physical impossibility.

“You know, tritium is my favorite,” Kay tells me before I leave. It’s produced as a side effect of operating nuclear reactors and released into the air, or leaks into the waterways; it contaminates the water supply and condenses in our food. One official who worked at the nuclear reactor Kay had tried to prevent once told her that tritium was no big deal. “It only destroys DNA molecules.” A few years ago they found tritium in the groundwater in Callaway County. “There is no way to remove it,” she says…..

….the Weldon Spring site. After it was decommissioned, the plant—a second one run by Mallinckrodt—was found to be so contaminated that the Department of Energy eventually entombed the whole site in layers upon layers of clay and soil, gravel, engineered filters and limestone rocks, creating a mountain covering forty-five acres, containing approximately 1.5 million cubic yards of hazardous waste. With its own educational center located near the base, the containment dome has become a kind of memorial for a tragedy that hasn’t finished happening. The top of the dome is the highest point in the county.

“Oh, you don’t want to go there anyway,” Kay says, waving the idea away with her slender hand. “It’s leaking.”……..

a contradiction I can’t resolve: that the massive crime here began with a belief in a kind of care, a belief that protection comes only in the form of wars and bombs, and that its ultimate expression is a technology that can destroy in a single instant any threat to our safety with perfect precision and efficiency. But hundreds of thousands lost their lives to those bombs in Japan, and the fallout from building them has claimed at least as many lives right here at home.

There is no one to arrest for this, to send to jail, to fine or execute or drag to his humiliation in the city square. Even if Karen and Dawn win their fight and convince the government to remove every gram of radioactive waste in the landfill and the creek and the airport and the backyards and gardens here, people will still be sick. Thousands of them. Chronic exposure to radiation has changed their DNA, and they’ll likely pass those changes on to their children, and to their children’s children, and on and on through every generation. In this regard, no one is immune……..

The EPA Region 7 offices are located in a sprawling modern government building in a suburb of Kansas City. The small conference room just to the side of the main entrance is filled with a surprising number of people……

During our too-short conversation I learn that the EPA has over 1,300 sites in the Superfund program, and Region 7 alone has ninety-eight sites on the National Priorities List. Each of these communities is demanding that their toxic sites be scrubbed clean. ………

Radioactive contamination: the secret scandal of Muslumovo in the southern Russian Urals, downstream from the Mayak plutonium plant

July 24, 2017

In conferences debating the number of victims of the Chernobyl accident, officials who draw paychecks from nuclear lobbies make similar arguments about alcohol abuse and “radiophobia”—stress-related illnesses caused by fear of radiation.

Strange illnesses in one of the most contaminated towns in the world challenge what we think we know about the dangers of radioactivity.Slate, By Kate Brown, April 18, 2013, “……What do we know about communities living on contaminated terrain? Two years after the meltdown of three reactors in Fukushima, Japan, the World Health Organization forecasts that there will be no significant rise in cancers among people living nearby. These projections are based on guesses from models calculated from prior studies, mostly of Japanese people who survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet when Japanese scientists and inspected the bodies of 38,000 children living in the Fukushima Prefecture, they found 36 percent had abnormal growths on their thyroids a year after the accident.

We have grown accustomed to this scenario—media attention to nuclear accidents followed by a long, slow quarrel among scientists about whether the spilled fission products will damage human bodies or not. It will take decades to learn the public health impact of the 2011 meltdown. By then, most of the public will have lost interest. But there are other ways to get at this question of what it means to live on earth sullied with decaying radioactive isotopes.

No one has lived longer on contaminated terrain than people in the village of Muslumovo in the southern Russian Urals located downstream from the Maiak plutonium plant, built in 1948 to produce Soviet bomb cores. Unlike the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game, daily life in Muslumovo is terrifyingly banal: long waits at medical clinics, worries over the price of prescriptions, reams of paperwork related to compensation and disability claims, sick kids, unemployment, poverty, and chronic illness.

I showed up in Muslumovo on a Saturday morning in August 2009. Muslumovo is a big village, sprawled inside a crooked elbow of the Techa River, which is slow, sluggish, and considered to be the world’s most radioactive. The village center has a train station, a few apartment buildings, and a corner store. Marat Akhmadeev met me at the station in his Soviet vintage car, dusty and dented. We jolted up and down on the choppy seas of the unpaved streets. Muslumovo is a strange village—half there and half gone. Many houses are abandoned, some partly dismantled, exposing weathered wallpaper and overturned appliances.

The Techa became a flowing radioactive reservoir in 1949 when engineers at the plutonium plant ran out of underground storage containers for high-level radioactive waste. A Dixie cup of this waste could kill everyone in a large ballroom. Compelled by the arms race, the plant director ordered it dumped in the Techa River. The men running the plant didn’t tell anyone about this decision. The 28,000 Russian, Bashkir, and Tatar farmers living on the river—drinking, cooking, and bathing with river water—had no idea. In the 1950s and ’60s special forces resettled most of the 16 contaminated villages on the Techa, but a few villages were too large and expensive to move, so they stayed. Muslumovo is one.

There’s no work in Muslumovo. A person either commutes 60 miles to the industrial city of Cheliabinsk or farms a patch of land of the long-defunct Muslumovo collective farm. Marat farms, living off the land—a term that takes on new meaning in Muslumovo, where in 2008, an American team found domestic interiors registering radiation at 40 times above the background level. After we pulled up at Marat’s house, his teenage son silently trailed us. Noticing a twitch in the boy’s step, I turned to look at him. His mouth drooped and fingers twisted, as he mouthed a stuttered greeting. Marat explained, “This is Kareem,nash luchevik,” meaning “our radiant one,” said in an off-hand manner, as if every family has a luchevik……

There is a legal contest going on over the health of the people of Muslumovo: whether they are sick and, if so, ill from the radioactive isotopes dumped in the river or from poor diets and alcohol abuse. Medical evidence has been contradictory. In 1959, Soviet scientist A. N. Marei wrote a dissertation in which he argued that the Techa villagers were in poor health because of their poor diets. In 1960, in contrast, local Soviet officials linked the river-dwellers’ illnesses to the contaminated river. This debate between nature (radiation) and nurture (lifestyle) has been going on a long time…….

Over the years, FIB-4 doctors had diagnosed 935 people on the Techa River with chronic radiation syndrome. But as thousands of people in Ukraine worried about their exposures from the Chernobyl blast, Soviet medical officials backpedaled on the FIB-4 doctors’ original findings. In 1991, Angelina Gus’kova, the chief official voice in evaluating Chernobyl health problems, argued that in fact there were only 66 cases of chronic radiation syndrome among the Techa River people. The rest, she claimed, suffered from more prosaic diseases such as brucellosis, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and rheumatism caused by poor diets and sanitation. As American researchers supported by the Department of Energy have taken over as lead researchers of studies in Muslumovo, the diagnosis of chronic radiation syndrome has largely dropped from the radar. Meanwhile, Russian officials, worried about lawsuits, charged that many people in Muslumovo had dreamed up illnesses in order to sue for compensation. These people, they said, had no chronic radiation disease but were chronic welfare cases looking for handouts.

The trope of ignorant, genetically deficient, and drunken villagers is a common one in Russia. In the southern Urals in the past few decades, the cliché has been useful in glossing over the human suffering connected to uncontrolled dumping into the Techa River. In conferences debating the number of victims of the Chernobyl accident, officials who draw paychecks from nuclear lobbies make similar arguments about alcohol abuse and “radiophobia”—stress-related illnesses caused by fear of radiation. It would be a mistake, however, to allow the longstanding politicization of medical studies to overtake this very important, yet overlooked, place for our understanding of radiation’s effects on human bodies. Reprinted from Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters by Kate Brown with permission from Oxford University Press USA.

Increased cancer risk for Japanese workers exposed to plutonium

July 24, 2017

Increase in Cancer Risk for Japanese Workers Accidentally Exposed to Plutonium, ED LYMAN, SENIOR SCIENTIST | JUNE 9, 2017, 

 According to news reports, five workers were accidentally exposed to high levels of radiation at the Oarai nuclear research and development center in Tokai-mura, Japan on June 6th. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the facility, reported that five workers inhaled plutonium and americium that was released from a storage container that the workers had opened. The radioactive materials were contained in two plastic bags, but they had apparently ripped.

We wish to express our sympathy for the victims of this accident.

This incident is a reminder of the extremely hazardous nature of these materials, especially when they are inhaled, and illustrates why they require such stringent procedures when they are stored and processed.

According to the earliest reports, it was estimated that one worker had inhaled 22,000 becquerels (Bq) of plutonium-239, and 220 Bq of americium-241. (One becquerel of a radioactive substance undergoes one radioactive decay per second.) The others inhaled between 2,200 and 14,000 Bq of plutonium-239 and quantities of americium-241 similar to that of the first worker.

More recent reports have stated that the amount of plutonium inhaled by the most highly exposed worker is now estimated to be 360,000 Bq, and that the 22,000 Bq measurement in the lungs was made 10 hours after the event occurred. Apparently, the plutonium that remains in the body decreases rapidly during the first hours after exposure, as a fraction of the quantity initially inhaled is expelled through respiration. But there are large uncertainties.

The mass equivalent of 360,000 Bq of Pu-239 is about 150 micrograms. It is commonly heard that plutonium is so radiotoxic that inhaling only one microgram will cause cancer with essentially one hundred percent certainty. This is not far off the mark for certain isotopes of plutonium, like Pu-238, but Pu-239 decays more slowly, so it is less toxic per gram.  The actual level of harm also depends on a number of other factors. Estimating the health impacts of these exposures in the absence of more information is tricky, because those impacts depend on the exact composition of the radioactive materials, their chemical forms, and the sizes of the particles that were inhaled. Smaller particles become more deeply lodged in the lungs and are harder to clear by coughing. And more soluble compounds will dissolve more readily in the bloodstream and be transported from the lungs to other organs, resulting in exposure of more of the body to radiation. However, it is possible to make a rough estimate.

Using Department of Energy data, the inhalation of 360,000 Bq of Pu-239 would result in a whole-body radiation dose to an average adult over a 50-year period between 580 rem and nearly 4300 rem, depending on the solubility of the compounds inhaled. The material was most likely an oxide, which is relatively insoluble, corresponding to the lower bound of the estimate. But without further information on the material form, the best estimate would be around 1800 rem.

What is the health impact of such a dose? For isotopes such as plutonium-239 or americium-241, which emit relatively large, heavy charged particles known as alpha particles, there is a high likelihood that a dose of around 1000 rem will cause a fatal cancer. This is well below the radiation dose that the most highly exposed worker will receive over a 50-year period. This shows how costly a mistake can be when working with plutonium.

The workers are receiving chelation therapy to try to remove some plutonium from their bloodstream. However, the effectiveness of this therapy is limited at best, especially for insoluble forms, like oxides, that tend to be retained in the lungs.

The workers were exposed when they opened up an old storage can that held materials related to production of fuel from fast reactors. The plutonium facilities at Tokai-mura have been used to produce plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for experimental test reactors, including the Joyo fast reactor, as well as the now-shutdown Monju fast reactor. Americium-241 was present as the result of the decay of the isotope plutonium-241.

I had the opportunity to tour some of these facilities about twenty years ago. MOX fuel fabrication at these facilities was primarily done in gloveboxes through manual means, and we were able to stand next to gloveboxes containing MOX pellets. The gloveboxes represented the only barrier between us and the plutonium they contained. In light of the incident this week, that is a sobering memory.

Independent World Health Organisation challenges WHO

May 18, 2017
In reality, IAEA is a commercial lobbying org promoting use of the atom, yet at the same time, it dictates WHO procedures, standards, and published articles on the matter of nuclear radiation, prompting a very pregnant question: Is this a conflict of interest for WHO? Answer: Yes, it is!

Not only is there a serious conflict of interest, Katz claims WHO fails, time and again, to meet its mandate to the public, as for example:

1) WHO remained absent from Chernobyl for five years even though the WHO mandate requires it to be present the “day after a catastrophe” to evaluate and provide assistance. But, WHO was MIA for 5 years.

2) WHO does not issue independent reports on radiation issues. All nuclear-related reports are written by IAEA but published “in the name of the WHO.”

3) Following Chernobyl, there were two international conferences held to analyze the implications of the catastrophe; one held in Geneva in 1995 and the second in Kiev in 2001. The “Proceedings of the Conferences” were never published by WHO.

Hidden Radiation Secrets of the World Health Organization, CounterPunch  MAY 2, 2017 Imagine the following hypothetical: The World Health Organization (“WHO”) is deeply involved in a high level cover up of the human impact and dangers of ionizing radiation, intentionally hiding the facts from the public, a chilling storyline!

After all, the world community depends upon WHO as an independent org t0 forewarn the general public of health dangers and to help in times of crises, not hide pivotal health facts from public eye.

As it happens, that nightmarish hypothetical comes to life in an interview with Alison Katz, who claims: “We are absolutely convinced that if the consequences of nuclear radiation were known to the public, the debate about nuclear power would end tomorrow. In fact, if the public knew, it would probably be excluded immediately as an energy option.”

Alison Katz heads a NGO known as Independent WHO, and she spends a lot of time arranging sandwich boards with messages like: “Complicity in Scientific Crime” or “Crime of Chernobyl – WHO Accomplice” in front of WHO headquarters/Geneva. For 10 years now on a daily vigil from 8:00-to-6:00 she and/or other protestors expose alleged misbehavior committed by WHO, right outside of the headquarters building. Imagine this: Ten years on the same street corner every working day. It’s commitment and determination sans pareil.

“The aim of the silent vigil is to remind the World Health Organisation of its duties. It was Hippocrates who formulated the ethical rules for health practitioners. The World Health Organisation ignores these rules, when it comes to protecting the health of the victims of the consequences of the nuclear industry”.

Which brings forth: Ten years of hard work combating a difficult and challenging issue warrants public adulation beyond carrying posters back and forth, come rain or shine, trudging away in the heat of the sun or the freezing cold and snow in front of WHO Hdqs. Hopefully, this article serves that purpose for Alison Katz.

The mission of Independent WHO is to expose WHO’s failings whilst calling for WHO independence away from influence by the worldwide nuclear syndicate: According to WHO Independence’s Web Site: “The World Health Organization (WHO) is failing in its duty to protect those populations who are victims of radioactive contamination.”

Ms Katz worked inside the WHO for 18 years. She insists that WHO, in cahoots with IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), dangerously misrepresents the inherent dangers of ionizing radiation, an insinuation that smacks in the face with egregiousness galore.

Ms Katz’s April 2017 interview, which this article is based upon, can be heard in its entirety.

This article condenses and summarizes her one-hour interview. As such, according to Ms Katz: “The health consequences of nuclear activity, whether they are civil or military, are not known to the public… There has been a very high level cover up… including the WHO.”

For over 50 years WHO provided “a clean bill of health for nuclear power.” However, according to Ms Katz, that clean bill of health is not based upon independent science. It’s based upon “pseudo science” manipulated and largely controlled by the nuclear lobby and International Atomic Energy Agency, the Queen Bee of the pro-nuke Hive.

Furthermore, within the “United Nations family hierarchy,” WHO is entirely subservient to IAEA. In turn, IAEA reports to the Security Council of the UN or the very top echelon of the power hierarchy of the world, including France, China, UK, U.S., and the Russian Federation. Far and away, these are the world’s biggest nuke heads.

Connecting the dots leaves one breathless within a telling trail of pro-nuke advocacy of the highest order… hm-m-m, thus raising the question: How is it humanly possible for WHO to objectively, impartially, squarely and soberly analyze and recommend ionizing radiation issues on behalf of the general public?

Is it at all possible, even a little bit?

As it goes, the IAEA has two mandates, which sound innocent enough: (1) to prevent proliferation of nuclear power and (2) promotion of the use of the atom on a peaceful basis, ah-ah-ah… oh well, never mind. In reality, IAEA is a commercial lobbying org promoting use of the atom, yet at the same time, it dictates WHO procedures, standards, and published articles on the matter of nuclear radiation, prompting a very pregnant question: Is this a conflict of interest for WHO? Answer: Yes, it is! WHO is a creature of the dictates of IAEA, which is the world’s largest promoter of the atom. Whereas, WHO is supposed to “independently serve the public interest,” not kowtow to a nuclear advocacy powerhouse that reports to nuclear powerhouse countries that have a deepening love affair with nuclear power, warts and all.

For example, sixty (60) reactors are currently under construction in fifteen countries. In all, one hundred sixty (160) power reactors are in the planning stage and three hundred (300) more have been proposed. That’s a love affaire.

Meanwhile, as for WHO’s mandate: It serves as the leading authority of standards for public health, coordinating research, advising member states, and formulating ionizing radioactivity health policies. However, IAEA has been usurping WHO’s mandate for the past 50 years. In fact, a 1959 Agreement (WHA 12-40) between the two says WHO needs prior approval of IAEA before taking any action or publishing material dealing with nuclear, period!

As a result of this 50-year conflict of interest, which is deeply embedded by now, Ms Katz claims WHO must, absolutely must, become independent, thus breaking the stranglehold of numero uno promoter of nuclear power over WHO, which is mandated to serve the public, not IAEA.

Not only is there a serious conflict of interest, Katz claims WHO fails, time and again, to meet its mandate to the public, as for example:

1) WHO remained absent from Chernobyl for five years even though the WHO mandate requires it to be present the “day after a catastrophe” to evaluate and provide assistance. But, WHO was MIA for 5 years.

2) WHO does not issue independent reports on radiation issues. All nuclear-related reports are written by IAEA but published “in the name of the WHO.”

3) Following Chernobyl, there were two international conferences held to analyze the implications of the catastrophe; one held in Geneva in 1995 and the second in Kiev in 2001. The “Proceedings of the Conferences” were never published by WHO; thus, never made public even though WHO claims the proceedings are publicly available. Confusing? Yes! To this day, the relevant question remains: What did “the analyses” show?

As a result of WHO’s egregious conflicts, the world community has no independent arms-length source on nuclear radiation. That is a situation fraught with conflict and extremely difficult to accept, sans grimacing with a lot of teeth grinding.

Once again, with emphasis: There is no independent international authority reporting to the public on nuclear radiation…. none whatsoever. All information about nuclear radiation ultimately comes from the primary users/promoters of nuclear power even though they have a very big heavy axe to grind.

Of course, there are independent scientists, but they face enormous obstacles in coming forward with the truth, thereby risking monetary grants and risking personal positions, as well as family livelihood.

Not only that, but over the years all departments within WHO that dealt with nuclear radiation have been highly compromised. Even worse, according to Ms Katz, no senior radiation scientists work for WHO, none… nada.

What constitutes the “nuclear establishment” is a fair question; it consists of the major governments of the world like France and the U.S but led by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), the top dog, establishing standards for the world. Strangely enough, there are no health experts at ICRP, prompting a logical question: Why not?

There is more to be concerned about, e.g., another shocking fact regarding ICRP, as if there are not already enough shockers with the thread that runs throughout nuclear power’s closely-knit network: Even though “ionizing radiation is mutagenic and always causes mutations, causing damage at the cellular level, there are no molecular biologists working in the ICRP” (Katz). Thus, the world’s largest institution for determination of radiation standards for the public has no molecular biologists on staff. That fact is beyond belief, an eye-opener beyond all other eye-openers.

It’s almost as if the regulators don’t give a damn about the effects of radiation on the general public. Do they?………….


Consequences of Chernobyl……..

Effects of Radiation

The genetic effects of radiation likely exceed anything understood by the general public, as WHO and other health orgs do not properly educate the public about radiation’s risks: “The genetic effects, far from diminishing with time, increase” (Katz), which is extra bad.

Years of research around Chernobyl show that the genetic impact of radiation to the human body becomes much, much worse as time passes. Thus, “radiation is both a continuing and a worsening catastrophe as time passes” (Katz). Radiation’s impact gets worse over time; it does not heal, does not dissipate, does not go away; it grows progressively worse, like the film sequels to Godzilla, which was conceived as a metaphor for nuclear weapons in the early 1950s.

Indisputably, all organ systems of the human body are affected by radioactive contamination. Cancer is not the only nasty result of radiation exposure. Radioactive contamination affects the entire human immune system from head to toe, thus impacting every organ system in the body, e.g. musculoskeletal, etc. This damage to organs is in addition to the various cancer risks.

After all, consider this, 30 years after the fact, horribly deformed Chernobyl Children are found in over 300 asylums in the Belarus backwoods deep in the countryside.

Equally as bad but maybe more odious, as of today, Chernobyl radiation, since 1986, is already affecting 2nd generation kids.

According to a USA Today article, Chernobyl’s Legacy: Kids With Bodies Ravaged by Disaster, April 17, 2016: “There are 2,397,863 people registered with Ukraine’s health ministry to receive ongoing Chernobyl-related health care. Of these, 453,391 are children — none born at the time of the accident. Their parents were children in 1986. These children have a range of illnesses: respiratory, digestive, musculoskeletal, eye diseases, blood diseases, cancer, congenital malformations, genetic abnormalities, trauma.”

It’s taken 30 years for the world, via an article in USA Today, to begin to understand how devastating, over decades, not over a few years, radiation exposure is to the human body. It is a silent killer that cumulates in the body over time and passes from generation to generation to generation, endless destruction that cannot be stopped.

Where is WHO is kinda like Where is Waldo, but sadly the effects of ionizing radiation are not part of a game. It is deadly serious, forevermore. In the meanwhile, Fukushima irradiates and irradiates, limitlessly and so far, unstoppable. Where does its radiation go?

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at