Sunday, March 27, 2011

Why the Radiation from the Fukushima Accident Could Be Dangerous Across the Globe

In the interest of  expanding the debate on the health hazards of radiation, in particular, from nuclear accidents, I present below a column by Harvey Wasserman co-author along with Bob Fitrakis, Norman Solomon and Eleanor Walters of  Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America's Experience With Atomic Radiation.

I hasten to add that I am not endorsing his view and do not hold myself out to be an expert on nuclear issues or radiation. I am merely presenting what appears to be a reasoned analysis, and I note that I have also published at EPJ critics from the pro-nuclear camp. Further, I do note that Wasserman's claim of 985,000 deaths as a result of Chernobyl is an exponential number relative to the death numbers claimed by those in the pro-nuclear community. Somebody is way, way off. 

If there ever was a time to have a debate on the health hazards of radiation and a better understanding of what may be going on at the Fukushima Daiichii nuclear plant, this certainly appears to be the time. Let's have both sides present their best arguments. I welcome comments to this post from both sides of the debate. 

 "Safe" Radiation is a Lethal TMI Lie

By Harvey Wasserman

There is no safe dose of radiation.

We do not x-ray pregnant women.

Any detectable fallout can kill.

With erratic radiation spikes, major air and water emissions and at least three reactors and waste pools in serious danger at Fukushima, we must prepare for the worst.

When you hear the terms "safe" and "insignificant" in reference to radioactive fallout, ask yourself: "Safe for whom?" "Insignificant to which of us?"

Despite the corporate media, what has and will continue to come here from Fukushima is deadly to Americans. At very least it threatens countless embryos and fetuses in utero, the infants, the elderly, the unborn who will come to future mothers now being exposed. ( )

No matter how small the dose, the human egg in waiting, or embryo or fetus in utero, or newborn infant, or weakened elder, has no defense against even the tiniest radioactive assault.

Science has never found such a “safe” threshold, and never will.

In the 1950s Dr. Alice Stewart showed a definitive link between medical x-rays administered to pregnant women and the curse of childhood leukemia among their offspring.

After a fierce 30-year debate, the medical profession agreed. Today, administering an x-ray to a pregnant woman is universally understood to be a serious health hazard.

Those who pioneered the health physics profession---towering greats like Dr. Karl Z.Morgan and Dr. John Gofman---set a definitive, impenetrable standard. A safe dose of radiation does not exist. All doses, “insignificant” or otherwise, can harm the human organism.

That has been repeatedly shown in major studies---done most notably by Dr. Ernes tSternglass, Jay Gould, Joe Mangano, Arnie Gundersen, Dr. Steven Wing ( )and others---showing that among human populations near commercial reactors, infant death rates plummet once the reactors shut down.

In 1979, 32 years ago this March 28, the owners of Three Mile Island said there was no meltdown, no serious radiation release and no need for evacuation.

All were lies.

To this day no one knows how much radiation was released or where it went or who it killed.

TMI’s owners ran ads dismissing the emissions as the equivalent of a single chest x-ray given to everyone within a ten mile radius.

But that included all the pregnant women.

Soon infant death rates soared in nearby Harrisburg. Some 2400 central Pennsylvania families sued based on the health impacts.

In 1980 I interviewed dozens of these people. Cancer, leukemia, birth defects, stillbirths, sterility, malformations, open lesions, hair loss, a metallic taste and much more were among the symptoms. ( )

The death and mutation rate among farm and wild animals was also thoroughly documented by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and a team of investigators from the Baltimore News-American.

We were again told there were “no health dangers” from radiation that hit California from Chernobyl ten days after that 1986 explosion. But bird births at the Point Reyes National Seashore quickly dropped 60% from the levels that had been carefully monitored and recorded through the previous decade.

The cloud then crossed the northern tier of the United States. Heightened radiation levels were found in milk in New England---as they were throughout Europe from clouds that had blown from Chernobyl in the other direction.

The doses were neither “insignificant” nor “safe” to those far or near.

In Russia ten years later, I interviewed dozens of downwind victims, and many of the 800,000 “liquidators” who ran into Chernobyl’s seething corpse to help clean it up. After TMI, it was déjà vu all over again.

The most recently published findings, from a compendium of more than 5,000 studies,indicate a global Chernobyl death toll in excess of 985,000, and still counting. ( ).

Today we are assaulted by yet another radioactive death cloud from yet another“perfectly safe” nuclear plant.

Fukushima’s radiation is pouring into the air and water. The operators have reported radiation levels a million times normal, then retracted the estimate to a "mere" 100,000. Workers are being exposed to doses that are certain to be lethal. At least three of the reactors, and one or more of the spent fuel pools, hover at the brink of catastrophe.

Fukushima’s radiation has now been detected in Los Angeles and Sacramento, and has blown east across North America. It has also been detected in Sweden, which means it's blowing across Europe as well.

Radiationis not being released as a single puff. Rather it's a steady stream thatcould yet turn into a tsunami.

Fukushima’s worst may be yet to come. Its collective emissions are virtually certain to exceed Chernobyl’s.

And yet we continue to hear smug, misinformed “experts,” TV meteorologists and industry talking heads saying these are “safe” doses.

The response of the Obama Administration has been beyond derelict. As the accident began, the President went on national television to assure us there was nothing to worry about, and that he would continue to demand $36 billion in loan guarantees to build new nuclear plants.

Since then, even as the Fukushima crisis mounts, President Obama has remained silent.

Millions of Americans have heard about potassium iodide (KI), which can be used block the uptake of radioactive iodine and perhaps protect the thyroid.

But KI can have potential medical side-effects for some individuals. And timing can be critical. To say the least, we need to know when the radioactive fallout is present.

Yet the administration has not provided us with a national supply of KI, or guidance for using it.

At very least we need reliable real-time mapping of the radioactive clouds as they cross the nation. Every American should be issued a mask, and sufficient KI pills with directions on how to use them, if necessary.

Above all, we need national leadership that puts the health of our people first and foremost.

Americans who are of reproductive age---and their unborn, our babies, the elderly, those of us who may be specially sensitive---we all deserve better.

As we have learned so tragically from Drs. Stewart, Morgan, Gofman and Sternglass, from Gundersen and Mangano and so many other researchers, from TMI and Chernobyl, and from the on-going operation of nuclear plants where infant death rates continue to be affected---a “perfectly safe” dose of radiation does not exist.

No truly informed or responsible scientist, medical doctor, health researcher, TV weatherman, bloviating “expert” or on-the scene reporter would ever tell you otherwise.

Whenever you hear the term “insignificant” fallout, ask yourself: “insignificant to whom?”

“Acceptable” to which expectant mother? To whose child? To how many mourning parents? For which dying elder?

Nuclear reactors make global warming worse and prolong our addiction to fossil fuels. They stand in the way of our transition to a totally green-powered Earth.

As we continue to learn at such a huge cost, there can never be a “perfectly safe” nuclear reactor, any more than there can be a “perfectly harmless” dose of radiation.

“Impossible” accidents continue to happen, one after the other, each of them successively worse.

What we fear most about TMI, then Chernobyl and now Fukushima, is not what has happened---but what is yet to come, there, and at the next inevitable reactor disaster.


Harvey Wasserman edits He is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH and co-author, with Bob Fitrakis, Norman Solomon and Eleanor Walters, of KILLING OUR OWN: THE DISASTER OF AMERICA'S EXPERIENCE WITH ATOMIC RADIATION 


  1. I am 23 years old and was born, raised, and still reside in Middletown, PA, the home of TMI. My father worked there for about twenty years. This is the first I have ever heard about animal mutations stemming from the incident. I heard some people sued, but to my knowledge, it never amounted to anything.

    Just thought I would point that out. Funny thing is, according to my dad, if the workers at TMI had let the system run itself rather than intervening, everything would have been fine. TMI was the result of human error, not mechanical.

  2. But who can argue with "Steve"? "Steve" has degrees. MIT's degrees!

  3. Apparently this Mr. Wasserman has never heard of something called 'background radiation', which every one of us is absorbing every day. Shhhh! Don't tell Harvey! He'll like totally freak out.

  4. @James E. Miller

    Does you father have any views on what's going on at Fukushima?

  5. OK, I've been seeing a lot of "locals"' posts regarding TMI in the _last few weeks_, so here's my little anecdote:

    I had only a small experience in regards to TMI. That day, I was downwind about 12 to 15 miles. A PA State Cop pulled up behind my rig, of which I was on the rear restacking a pallet, and almost made me jump out of my skin by using his loudspeaker to ask "ARE YOU OK?". I nodded ok, and he moved about in a couple minutes.

    I always thought it strange that a potential ticket was not only passed up, but that the cop remained in his car with the windows up.

    In about a week to ten days, the complete tops of my ears became raw, literally. I thought, well, it could be because some return hauls (and corresponding visits inside factories) had involved gritty product as in asphalt shingles.

    It wasn't until much later that I put together my (downwind) proximity to TMI that day, and the experiences of some of our "atomic veterans", which included "raw ears".

    So, ok, some scientists dispute the amount of harmful radiation released that day. I know, as a wiseacre told me once, that I was lucky I hadn't watered the roadside plants that day.

  6. no excess deaths connected to radiation exposure were observed in the population after TMI, or Chernobyl disaster. but of course it was all a government cover up.
    i think is time to call things with their real name and to stop giving credibility to any crackpot that call himself an expert and happens to have a degree in something.
    this is not a "reasoned analysis", this is nonsense. "there is no safe dose" is BS.

  7. "Science has never found such a “safe” threshold, and never will."

    That's just a stupid thing for any scientist to say. There is ionizing radiation all around us all the time. What is their definition of "safe"? Perhaps next they can tell us there are no safe bathtubs?

    Sorry, no credibility.

  8. @Robert Wenzel

    Sorry for the delayed response. From the few times I have talked to my father recently, he doesn't seem too worried. He basically follows what the mainstream media says and hasn't researched what's going on there that much. You probably know more than him honestly. I think TMI and Fukushima are different types of reactors.

  9. From what I read experts say about his research Harvey Wasserman is not the kind of guy you trust if you want facts.

  10. Bend down, place your head firmly between your legs, and kiss your butt good-bye.