“There is no safe dose of radiation.” So begins today’s guest, Harvey Wasserman, in a recent piece, “’Safe’ Radiation is a Lethal Three Mile Island Lie,” and it occurred to me that it is hard to find a statement that is simultaneously so obvious and yet so controversial.
With the caveat there are beneficial, targeted therapeutic uses for radiation, we are a long, long way from the pre-atomic age idea of a life enhanced by the presence of increased background radioactivity. There are not a lot of people out there saying “I wish I had more radioactivity in my life.” Yet, as the number of sources and the amount of radiation has increased, advocates, scientists, and regulatory bodies have set about determining safe levels of exposure.
Mr. Wasserman says there is no such thing.
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.
Three decades ago, Wasserman interviewed those in communities around Harrisburg, PA, ground zero, so to speak, of the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. In addition to stillbirths, his research found increased incidence of Leukemia, hair loss, birth defects, and complaints of open sores that wouldn’t heal and persistent metallic taste (a common side effect of exposure to elevated levels of Iodine). And what Harvey Wasserman found was regularly in contradiction to what federal and state authorities were saying about the lingering effects of TMI.
Twenty-five years ago today, April 26, 1986, saw the beginning of what has been considered the worst civilian nuclear accident in history. The explosion and fire at the Chernobyl reactor in the Ukrainian SSR (now Ukraine) sent a periodic table of radioactive isotopes high into the atmosphere. Eventually (though days too late), the government evacuated some 135,000 from the surrounding area. To this day, an 18-mile radius around the reactor is accepted as uninhabitable. A plume of radioactive fallout drifted over Europe, and measurable amounts of radioactive Iodine and Cesium were detected in the US.
While the most conservative of official counts attribute something on the order of 6,000 additional European cancer deaths to Chernobyl, Wasserman cites a compendium of research that places global deaths resulting from the disaster at something now approaching one million.
But in recent weeks, the remembrances of these two reactor disasters have been modified by the inclusion of the still-evolving crisis in Japan. The earthquake and tsunami that hit the Fukushima Daiichi complex triggered another level seven nuclear accident (the highest category–Chernobyl being the only other accident rated such). As Wasserman wrote late last month:
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 it’s blowing across Europe as well.
Fukushima’s worst may be yet to come. Its collective emissions are virtually certain to exceed Chernobyl’s.
Questions abound. How is this new fallout being measured? Is there a government or independent agency effectively measuring or honestly reporting the results? If there are no safe levels, how do we assess our latest exposure levels? Is there any behavior modification that would realistically help our day-to-day health, and is this even the proper way to address the problem?
Join me now as we try to answer these questions—and maybe many others—with Harvey Wasserman, who joins us in comments under the name “solartopia.”
Harvey Wasserman edits the www.nukefree.org website, which has created a real time archive of the Fukushima accident since it began. He is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH, posted at www.solartopia.org. He is a founder of the global grassroots movement against atomic energy, and helped coin the phrase “No Nukes” in 1973. With Bob Fitrakis, Harvey helped break the major stories surrounding the theft of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, about which they have published five books. Harvey’s books about History, energy and the passing of his elderly parents appear at www.harveywasserman.com.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. Thanks—G.]