COLUMNS
Harvey Wasserman

“Safe” radiation is a lethal TMI lie
March 27, 2011

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. Ernest Sternglass, 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. 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 its blowing across Europe as well.

Radiation is not being released as a single puff. Rather it’s a steady stream that could 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.

We are a pro-life movement.

Please call the White House, the Congress and your state and local governments and DEMAND they protect the health and safety of our people in the face of this disaster.


Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org. He is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH (http://www.solartopia.org), and co-author, with Robert Alvarez, Norman Solomon and Eleanor Walters, of KILLING OUR OWN: THE DISASTER OF AMERICA’S EXPERIENCE WITH ATOMIC RADIATION. Originally published by http://www.freepress.org.